Dublin’s Paul Mannion during the 2020 All-Ireland semi-final win over Cavan. Tommy Dickson/INPHO
No regrets

Commitment levels behind Mannion's decision to step away from Dublin panel

The three-time All-Star withdrew from the Sky Blues’ squad in January.

PAUL MANNION HAS opened up about his decision to step away from the Dublin panel, while not ruling out a return at some stage down the line.

The Kilmacud Crokes forward departed Dessie Farrell’s squad ahead of the 2021 season, informing the manager of his plans shortly before the new campaign.

The six-time All-Ireland winner, who missed the 2015 season to spend time in China and Chicago, said the time commitment involved was the primary reason for this departure. 

“It’s just the day-to-day and week-to-week commitment that you have to give to be at your best when you’re in that time,” he said.

“It’s not just training hours, it’s travel time, prep time, meeting time, making sure you get home to get your sleep in, eating the right food, recovering properly. Doing your homework, reviewing the opposition or your own matches, it is a huge commitment when you add all that up.

“It just got to the point over the last year or so that I was struggling to hold myself to the standards that I had in the time gone by. I found myself keen to spend time on different things.

“I spent a few weeks this year thinking of it, and bouncing it off a couple of people. Then when it came to the point that they were going to be planning for the 2021 season, I had to make a call on it.”

When Covid-19 forced a lengthy stoppage of the inter-county season in 2020, Mannion found the free-time available refreshing.

“Suddenly, when football stops and you don’t have to go to training and matches, you realise that wow, how much spare time you actually do have.

“Then when you try different things, you get thinking, what if there wasn’t football, what could I do then. You get a flavour for life outside and that may have fed into the thought process. 

pwc-all-stars-50th-anniversary-event Paul Mannion in attendance at the launch of PwC's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the All-Stars at Croke Park. Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

“It’s just about not needing to be checking your schedule two or three weeks in advance to can you commit to something. To be able to decide on the day if you want to have drink, go out somewhere tomorrow. It’s the freedom to pick and choose what you want to do at anytime. 

“I still have a commitment with Crokes, and stuff like that as well. It’s just a little less pressure in terms of the time commitment. A bit of soccer, a bit of golf, I’m hacking away at a guitar as well, trying to learn that. 

“It’s work as well. I started a new role in work [with Google Cloud] a couple of months ago. I was flat out busy with that. That’s been going really well. I’m able to spend a bit more time on that as well.”

The 28-year-old kicked a point off the bench in last December’s All-Ireland final win over Mayo. He says the enjoyment factor never left him despite spending the 2020 championship as a substitute, nor was his motivation dulled by all the success. 

“I’d have loved to have stayed on and won more because I do think there is so much potential in that dressing room. When we won last December, that honestly felt like we’d won for the first time, it was that good.

“The motivation to win more and be part of the team was there, it was really just pure and simply the day-to-day commitment in terms of the amount of hours you have to put in, that was the main reason.”

Mannion, who stormed onto the scene as a teenager during Jim Gavin’s first season in charge in 2013, found informing manager Farrell and his team-mates particularly tough. 

“It was a difficult conversation with everyone that I spoke to about it, because people are so invested in you. They’re my team-mates, friends, management. Dessie brought me into Gaelic football really at minor, and it was a particularly tough decision to make with him as manager because I feel like I do owe him so much and I’m so grateful for the opportunity he gave me.  

“It was a challenging conversation to have with everyone, but also at the same time, as with everyone else on the team, he was fully respectful and understanding of my decision once I’d talked through about my headspace and where I was at. I’ve had good chats with him since, caught up, nothing to do with football.  

“Some were surprised,” he says of the Dublin players. “Most were totally understanding. They are all my best friends. I’ve been playing with them for so long, and they know me. They were fully supportive.

brian-howard-and-paul-mannion-celebrate Brian Howard and Paul Mannion celebrate after Dublin's latest All-Ireland triumph. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“There was no one that was begrudging in any way whatsoever. They were all fully understanding. It was emotional. Telling the players themselves was probably the most difficult. They are the people you soldier with for years and years. To step away from that is pretty sad.

“I just count myself so lucky that I’ve had so many good years, and I’ve made so many great friends and memories. First and foremost, that’s what’s in my head.”

Asked if he could see himself returning to line out with the Sky Blues in the future, Mannion replied: 

“I haven’t thought about that at all really. This time last year I wasn’t thinking that I wasn’t going to be involved this year. I generally just take one year at a time and see how I feel at any given time.

“If what I’m doing is making me happy and I’m enjoying it, I’m happy to go again for another year and I will. That’s it, I try not to think or plan too far ahead, because when I do plan too far ahead, it generally doesn’t work out that way.

“I’ll just take it one year at a time and who knows, if in a few years I’m fit and healthy and I’d like to give it a go, but it’s not something I’ve really thought about to be honest.”

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