After China and Chicago, All-Ireland winner back to shout on Dublin from the Hill

Paul Mannion started the 2013 All-Ireland final but will watch on next Sunday.

Paul Mannion in action against Kerry in the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final.
Paul Mannion in action against Kerry in the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

YOU REMEMBER HIM from 2013, one of the bright young stars as Dublin lifted Sam.

Paul Mannion limped off with a hamstring injury in that final against Mayo but he’d done his fair share to secure that September success.

Mannion developed the happy knack of bagging big goals at big times with Kildare, Meath and Kerry all suffering.

The display that saw him strike 0-8 as Dublin floored Roscommon in last May’s All-Ireland U21 final, hinted at a rich attacking future.

What happened next?

He went off to see the world.

And when Dublin return to the All-Ireland final stage next Sunday, Mannion will be on Hill 16 instead of in the dressing-room listening to Jim Gavin’s final pre-match instructions.

The 22 year-old only landed back in Ireland this week after a summer in Chicago and nine months before that studying in China. Shouting from the terrace won’t generate any regrets.

“It’ll be my first time on the Hill so I’ll be in there with a couple of mates and I’ll enjoy it for sure.

A view of Hill 16 Dublin fans on Hill 16 during their replay win over Mayo Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

“I was thinking that if I come back and they’re in an All-Ireland final or they win it, I’d be feeling a bit of regret.

“But not at all. The last couple of games I’ve been watching, I’ve been roaring them on. It’s not even a small bit of me that is in any way jealous.

“I’ve had a great year and I don’t have any regrets at all. That’s the truth.”

FBD7s Senior All Ireland Football 7s at Kilmacud Crokes Paul Mannion was at his club Kilmacud Crokes yesterday for the 2015 FBD 7s football launch Source: David Maher/SPORTSFILE

The dust had barely settled after Dublin’s seismic loss to Donegal last year and Mannion had boarded a plane. Immersing himself in Chinese was a novel coping mechanism after a painful inter-county defeat.

“It was only five or six days after. I hadn’t got flights booked because I was thinking I want to be in an All-Ireland final.

“It was a bit of a surprise losing to Donegal and suddenly getting on a flight.

“It took my mind off it, especially the first couple of weeks, it was like a holiday over there. I was with a bunch of friends from my course so that softened the blow.

Patrick McBrearty and Paul Mannion exchange jersey's Patrick McBrearty and Paul Mannion exchange jerseys after last year's All-Ireland semi-final Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I’m doing Business and Chinese so it was a mandatory year abroad. I did Spanish in first year and I was planning on continuing that but I started some Chinese classes and I enjoyed them.

“I got talking to people and they said it was a good one to tie in with business. I went for it and I’m still enjoying it.”

The year in China entailed some time in the capital Beijing and then being based in Wuhan, a city in the centre of the country.

“It was a completely different experience,” says Mannion.

“You are out of your comfort zone and it took a lot of getting used to at the start. it’s a completely different culture but at the end of the year I loved it.

“I travelled all around China, got to loads of cities and I got a couple of months off too in the winter and got to see Thailand and Vietnam.

“I’d be far from fluent but the year abroad improved it a lot, especially the spoken language. You need to be there a few years and really immmerse yourself to be fluent in it.”

Over there sport became a casual pastime instead of something his life revolved around.

“(I did) random things. The first semester in Beijing I was playing soccer, a lot of ping pong.

“Just trying lots of different sports and getting involved in lots of different clubs. I didn’t take it too seriously, it was all casual enough and friendly.”

He wasn’t the first Dublin footballer to head to foreign parts during his college days. Back in 2011, Rory O’Carroll decamped to Gien, a small town that skirts the Loire river, in France.

“I spoke to Rory”, reveals Mannion.

“That made it easier too knowing that there were players that went and were able to come back and do well in football. That gave me confidence too.”

Rory O'Carroll injured Rory O'Carroll in action against Mayo in the drawn All-Ireland semi-final Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

There had been loose plans for Mannion to rejoin the Dublin setup in 2015 but they never materialised.

“When I told Jim I was going away, the first thing he said was I could be back for the championship. At the time, I was thinking I could be back around April or early May.

“But as it transpired I wasn’t finished exams in China until the end of June. That was probably a bit too late.

“So I spoke with Jim and the management and said I’m going to head to Chicago for the summer.”

Paul Mannion shakes hands with manager Jim Gavin Paul Mannion shakes hands with boss Jim Gavin during the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final Source: James Crombie/INPHO

In the Windy City, he played for the McBrides club alongside Donegal’s Kevin Cassidy, Colm Begley of Laois and a bunch of Dublin U21′s.

They swept the boards in Chicago and on the North American stage. Since returning home this week, Mannion has started thinking of Kilmacud Crokes and their effort to land championship honours in Dublin.

James Burke and Paul Mannion Paul Mannion featured for Kilmacud Crokes in the 2012 Dublin county final Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

That’s his short-term focus and it feeds into a long-term ambition to play for Dublin again.

“I’m very determined to get back in there and give it another shot. First thing is back with Kilmacud Crokes, try and win a Dublin championship.

“Hopefully in 2016, I can get a call back from the Dublin team. That’s the plan, obviously as well it’s my final year in UCD, that’ll be high on the agenda as well.

“Sometimes you just need a kind of a break and time away from the game. I think it will do me good.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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