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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 14 November, 2018

'I’d say it was tough enough for him...he would more than likely be playing with Galway as well'

Had it not been for bad injury luck, a third Mannion brother might be part of the Galway team tomorrow.

HAD THINGS TURNED out a little differently, there might well be three Mannion brothers starting for Galway in tomorrow’s All-Ireland hurling final.

Padraic Mannion Padraic Mannion is one of the favourites for Hurler of the Year Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ahascragh-Fohenagh pair Cathal and Padraig Mannion will line out in attack and defence respectively as the Tribesmen look to replicate the great Galway side of the late 1980s by retaining the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

When Cathal made the breakthrough as a teenager in 2014, he became the first man from the parish to don the maroon jersey at senior level since Tim Sweeney in the 1950s.

A serious of debilitating back injuries hampered Padraic’s progress as an underage hurler but he eventually exploded onto the senior scene a year after his younger brother. In his debut campaign Galway reached the All-Ireland final, only to be beaten by Kilkenny. Cathal picked up his only All-Star that winter.

At 25, Padraic is one of the front-runners to claim Hurler of the Year and likely to collect a second successive All-Star after reaching new heights in 2019.

Cathal and Padraic became the 22nd set of brothers to have picked up All-Star awards in hurling, but at one stage it was a third brother, Ciaran, who looked destined for greatness on the field.

Cathal Mannion with Padraic Collins Cathal Mannion in action in the semi-final win over Clare Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Ciaran is 30 now and works as a PE teacher in Shanghai with his hurling days left behind him. A former Galway minor star, his once promising career in the mid-2000s was rocked by three cruciate tears.

Would he be part of the current Galway side if he’d avoided those devastating knee injuries?

“Oh he definitely would,” says Padraic. “He’d be better than me anyway.

“He’s done it (his cruciate) three times in two different knees. He’d a bad old run of it.

“He was actually on the minor panel the year they lost to Tipperary (in 2006). It would have been Joe Canning’s year. Davy (Burke) was playing wing-back with them. He was on the panel that year, but he got injured before the championship started so he didn’t get to play.”

Ciaran did make it to Thurles to watch his siblings see off Clare in the semi-final replay but will miss the final as he returns to China for the new school term.

“He’s actually home, he’s home for a wedding. But he has to go back, because he’s teaching over there on the Monday. Between changing flights and everything, he’s actually going back the Saturday (today).”

Padraic and Cathal played key roles as Ahascragh-Fohenagh reached the All-Ireland intermediate club final in 2017, and are riding the crest of a wave with hurling’s new force on the inter-county scene.

“He was in China (for the final last year) as well. He comes home, their school year starts earlier. So he’s been home for the semi-final the last few years, and the quarter-final in 2016. He didn’t do too bad this year, he got the replay.

Johnny Coen and Padraic Mannion celebrate Johnny Coen and Padraic Mannion celebrate after the 2017 All-Ireland win Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“He’d get (the Galway games) on GAA GO. Some of them could be late, or early in the morning. It’s great to have something like that to keep the connection between home as well.”

But Padraic admits his brothers injury woes helps give him some perspective as he prepares his third senior All-Ireland final. He’s well aware it could all end at any time.

“It might be easier for him to watch it back in China! Even with the club, we had success with the club and he had played for years. He was gone away for it again when we eventually won the intermediate championship.

“I’d say it was tough enough for him then, myself and Cathal, because he would more than likely be playing as well with Galway.”

After filling in brilliantly for the injured Gearoid McInerney at centre-back the last day out against Clare, Padraic is expected to return to his accustomary wing-back role tomorrow.

“I’ve played (centre-back) a few times before with club and stuff like that, and I’ve played it with Galway before. Whatever you’re asked to do and you just get on and do it. I’d a feeling after the first day that I could be asked to do it because I had experience doing it before. I’d be happy to do it.

“As long as you get the jersey. If you asked me to go into goal I’d go in, in the All-Ireland final.”

A Galway fan celebrates after the game Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

He doesn’t necessarily agree with the sentiment that the Galway players are unburdened by ending the 29-year wait without an All-Ireland last September.

“Maybe some of the older lads did (feel relief). I don’t know, I’m getting old as well now. I’d only been there for ‘15, ‘16, ‘17. So I didn’t feel like I had a massive burden on my shoulders.

“Obviously you wanted to go out, that was the small little bit, that it was so long. Even this year, after winning one last year. It doesn’t matter, you still really want to win it.

“Even the Kilkenny teams when they were winning everything, winning the previous year didn’t really take away from their want to win it the following year. They’re so hard to come by that while you’re here playing, you just want to win everything you can.

“You’re in the moment and you just do all you can while you’re here playing. Hope that you’ve no regrets at the end of it, ‘I should have trained harder, won more’. You hope that if you give it everything, then you get a bit of success along the way then.

Padraig Mannion and Shane O’Donnell Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“You just take it game by game and year by year, and try win as much as you can while you’re there. Obviously you can take confidence from success that you had previously, but ultimately that doesn’t guarantee you success in the future.

“As a player, the mindset you need to have is game by game, even training session by training session when you break it down. You just keep going and keep going and hopefully it can be a successful year.”

With Ciaran watching on his laptop in his Shanghai apartment over 9,000km away, Cathal and Padraic are bidding to do their brother proud and round off the season in style.

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Kevin O'Brien

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