Mannion won his seventh All-Ireland title in last month's final against Kerry. Morgan Treacy/INPHO
boys in blue

Why Paul Mannion isn't asking his team-mates about 2024 - and why James McCarthy is the Dubs' GOAT

Star forward gives Dublin’s All-Ireland defence a boost as he confirms that he plans to return next season.

SO IT TURNS out Paul Mannion can play the guitar too.

The All-Ireland final Man of the Match took to the six string a few times in recent weeks as the Sky Blues celebrated what felt like a landmark triumph. Dublin colleague Eoin Murchan was the piano man, tickling the ivories.

“I think people are sick of listening to us both, cracking out the same tunes,” smiled Mannion.

On one of the players’ nights out, Mannion teamed up with a fiddler for a rendition of U2′s All I Want Is You.

“Good fun,” he beamed.

He has more tall tales from three weeks of blissful excess. Like the trip to Waterford for the All Together Now festival, the weekend after their win over Kerry.

“Me, Niall Scully, Tom Lahiff and a few of my pals pitched up a tent, just about made it through the night, there was a storm on the Friday night and the tent nearly blew away,” winced Mannion.

The Dublin forward had 10 days in the sun too, out in Valencia, though reckons the Tuesday night sing-song after the All-Ireland, crammed into the Lord Edward pub next to his team-mates as Damien Dempsey, Mundy and Roisin O provided the entertainment, was the gathering he’ll remember most.

“It was a really, really special night,” said the seven-time All-Ireland winner.

Sport moves on quickly though. Already Mannion has missed a Dublin SFC game with holders and reigning All-Ireland champions Kilmacud Crokes. They still beat St Sylvesters so a win over Castleknock this Sunday at Parnell Park could secure a quarter-final spot with a group game to play.

Mannion got back training with the club on Tuesday night and is looking forward to going at it hard again.

That might surprise some given the intensity of his last 24 months which has included county, provincial and All-Ireland wins, as well as knee and ankle operations.

“The last couple of years, the run we went on with Crokes has been genuinely some of the most enjoyable seasons of my life, club or county,” he said.

“It was just so much fun, the energy about the club, the atmosphere. Like, we had a lot of really shitty days, to be blunt, with Crokes over the years. But just the atmosphere we were getting from underage teams, from all areas and aspects of the club, it’s just been amazing. I’m actually really looking forward to getting back into it.”

Beyond that, Mannion indicated that he will be back in blue with Dublin in 2024. His appearance as a sub against Louth in Round 7 of this year’s league, in March, was his first since the 2020 All-Ireland final. Jack McCaffrey, a close pal, made a similar comeback and the hope in Dublin circles will be that if Mannion stays, then McCaffrey may too.

Asked if he plans to return with Dublin, Mannion nodded.

“At the moment, yeah, nothing has changed,” he said.

“Yeah, I’ve just got to see how we’re going with Crokes, how the body is feeling. I’m just really hoping that I can stay injury free again over the winter and yeah, sure there’s always been one or two changes at the end of every year.

“The squad of 30, 30-plus players, it’s never been the exact same each year so I’m sure there will be changes in some respects but where exactly those come from, I don’t know. I’m just going to…yeah, nothing has changed in that respect at the moment.

“My plan is just to try to stay fit and injury free and have a long and good club championship campaign.”

There are question marks over the futures of veteran goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton, Dean Rock and captain James McCarthy too.

“It’s kind of something you’d feel almost rude asking lads about,” said Mannion.

“It’s a very personal decision and I wouldn’t be one to be going asking any of those people what are they doing, are they coming back or not?

“Everyone is in their own situation. I can’t speak for any of them.”

McCarthy is favourite to win the Footballer of the Year award so could yet retire after the most successful season of his career.

“James is probably my favourite Dublin footballer of all time,” said Mannion.

“I just have so much time and respect for him. Not just the athlete and the player that he is but his attitude.

“He’s just got a big heart as well. He plays so tough but he can be a bit of a gentle giant at times as well.

“We’ve so much love and respect for him on the team, definitely I think that would be just rewards for the reason that he’s had, the career he’s had so far.

“I’d love to see him get it, to be honest.”

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