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'I felt that I didn't show as good a version of myself as I could have. I had to step up'

Paul Mannion on his meteoric rise, his love of travelling and just how special it is to be a Dublin footballer.

PAUL MANNION’S STAR has just risen and risen over the past few years.

Paul Mannion Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

2017 well and truly saw him unlock his full potential in the Sky Blue jersey, mixing up his unerring accuracy before the posts and impressive skill with his ferocious work ethic.

“Certainly it was my most enjoyable year,” he smiles as he looks back.

“It was my best year on the field of play. I don’t particularly know why it was the case that it was last year. I suppose I’ve grown older a bit, I’ve grown physically stronger as well. I had to kind of step up and have a good year.

“In the past I probably felt that I didn’t show as good a version of myself as I could have, I guess. I was just determined like, ‘I want to play this year, I want to be part of team’.

“Really, really glad to have had that year and just focused now to try and repeat it. I don’t want to be known as having one good year, I have to be consistent. You want to top it all the time.”

The Kilmacud Crokes forward isn’t 100% sure of the reasoning behind his improved form over the past few years but one thing he’s sure of is that time away from the Size 5 O’Neills has helped to re-energise him time and time again.

In September 2014, Mannion headed for China as part of his International Commerce studies in UCD. After that, he spent some time in the USA before returning to home soil. Hungry.

“In the grand scheme of things and thinking long-term, the year abroad definitely helped me. I suppose mainly just personal development and to have had that experience and to have seen the world and see different things. It’s really important.

“I love travelling, so I always look back on that year….”

John West Launch National Féile Competitions 2018 Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

After completing his Masters degree in Digital Innovation at Smurfit Business School, he’s in the real world now, working full-time as a Consulting Analyst.

But he got some more travelling under the belt before settling into that job in February.

After Crokes were knocked out of the Dublin SFC, he set off once again, this time a series of adventures across Europe and the Americas before finishing with the team holiday to South Africa in January.

He’s beaming from ear to ear as he maps his journey.

“The highlight of it all? Probably the San Blas Islands in Panama. It was a four-day boat-trip, island-hopping, on these tiny little islands.

“No phones, no internet, nothing. For four days. I would definitely recommend checking it out. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

He adds: “I was only able to do it because we got knocked out of the Championship. So there was initial disappointment but the chance to go away is always a lot of fun too.

“Once you get back you’re ready to go training again and go at it again because, at the end of the day, that’s what I love doing, playing football and training. But, yeah, really, really good to get away.”

The working world is a huge change, he admits. He’s had to adjust and it’s much tougher to combine the commitments of an inter-county footballer with a full-time job rather than college.

“It was certainly different being a student. When you’re a student you have so much time off whereas I’d have early mornings now. I’m up at seven in the morning and wouldn’t be getting home until 10 o’clock. Those days can be quite tough.

“The hardest part is just that you’re tired a lot of the day. You’d nearly be falling asleep at work and then you’re feeling exhausted trying to get up to go training.

“It’s difficult, but I’m only a couple of months in and it’s something that I’ll learn to manage. The rest of the lads on the team have been doing it for years so they’re all looking at me now and thinking, ‘Yeah, it’s about time!’

“I’ll learn, definitely.”

Paul Mannion Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

He’s enjoying April as a club month, and looking forward to the summer ahead with the All-Ireland champions.

“We all, of course, feel lucky to be part of this team, to have enjoyed the success we have had over the last number of years. As best we can, we’ll try and focus on our next game this season.

“We’re looking for consistency, and again a performance. That’s all we’re focused on now. We’re in a position to keep driving it on.”

And that epic journey these Dublin players are on together, how much it means to don that jersey?

“Maybe it hasn’t sunk in even yet. It’ll be years gone by when we look back and enjoy it.

“It’s massive. We’re acutely aware of what we’re representing; the county, the people, the values. We take great pride in that, we want to do the jersey justice every time we take to the field, on and off the field. That’s the kind of culture we’re trying to foster.”

Dublin footballer Paul Mannion was at the launch of the John West National Féile competitions 2018 yesterday. 

This is the third year that John West will sponsor the underage sports tournament which is one of the biggest events of its kind. Throughout their sponsorship of the Féile, a focus for John West has been to encourage children to take part and participate in GAA during school and beyond.

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Emma Duffy

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