Cathal Mannion: ‘It is what you dream about’
By Cian O'Connell
The day after Ahascragh-Fohenagh’s epic AIB All Ireland Intermediate Hurling Championship Semi-Final win over Lismore the Mannion brothers were back in NUIG.
Having become accustomed to dealing with crucial matches at club, inter-county, and third level the Mannions could reflect on the huge distance Ahascragh-Fohenagh have travelled in the past decade.
A journey to Croke Park, GAA headquarters, is a trip every club in the country craves to make, but Ahascragh-Fohenagh, who have strong links with Caltra’s 2004 All Ireland Senior Club Football win, are simply enjoying this adventure.
Cathal Mannion acknowledges it is a reward for those who have grafted with underage teams for much of the past decade. “That is what it is all about, it isn't just about the players and management, it is about everyone that has put in so much work over the last few years,” Mannion says. “Thankfully they are getting a reward for it.”
From Caltra’s triumph Brian Kilroy is expected to start for Ahascragh-Fohenagh, while Kevin Gavin and Darren Smyth are also involved in the extended panel.
The experience gained by those three with Caltra is a significant help alongside Padraic and Cathal Mannion’s inter-county pedigree.
“A lot of work has gone on,” Cathal Mannion admits about Ahascragh-Fohenagh. “In the last few years we have been knocking around Intermediate Semi-Finals and thankfully we got through it.
“I suppose our aim was to get up to Senior, now we are just continuing on in the All Ireland series. We will give it our best shot.”
Padraic Mannion offers a similar assessment ahead of Saturday’s tussle with a star studded Carrickshock. “It is that bit sweeter when it is with the club. Cathal and I haven't played with the club for such a long period of time in a good few years. It is just nice to be training with the club, then playing big games. It makes it even better when you are winning.
“From our group growing up there is a good few involved now. When you are playing with lads so long you know them so well, you get used to playing together.
“We have a bit of a mix of experience and youth. You need a bit of that too. In the county it was our fifth time in a row to get to a Semi-Final, we have been at it for a while so it was nice to get over the line. Senior in Galway won't be too easy, but we have to keep try to improving.”
That is what Ahascragh-Fohenagh have always sought to do, to develop, improve, and evolve so Padraic Mannion doesn’t want to simply focus on Carrickshock’s marquee names.
“You know the names these teams have, even when we were playing Lismore, people would talk about the Shanahans, but no team wins Munster or Carrickshock didn't win Leinster by just having three or four players. They obviously have a strong panel. There is no point in trying to worry about three or four players because we know they will be a good outfit.”
Ahascragh-Fohenagh produced when it mattered against Lismore so an equally industrious display will be required according to Cathal Mannion. “It is going to be a step up from Lismore, we will have to be ready for it.
“Anything less than what we did against Lismore won't be good enough. The names they have and obviously the Championship is so tough in Kilkenny, but we will try to prepare as best as we can, hopefully it will be good enough.”
Padraic Mannion is hoping that Galway can make another bid for the ultimate honour in the game by winning Liam McCarthy later in the year. “When you think about it only a few years ago I thought I might have to stop hurling with injuries and stuff, but to comeback to be involved with Galway is great on a personal level,” Mannion remarks about his career. “You don't really think about that when you lose a Final and a Semi-Final, you don't see it like that, you'd just be hoping to go a step further now.
“You'd have to take confidence from the Tipp game last year, seeing how they played in the Final and how close we were to them. Being close isn't good enough. The year before we were in the Final and we didn't do it either.
“While you can take confidence from it, improvements still have to be made to get over the line. What we have been doing hasn't been up to the level required to win, you can take confidence, but we still know we have to raise it too.”
Before then the Mannions focus is on club matters. Cathal Mannion is relishing the prospect of hitting the Jones Road venue with Ahascragh-Fohenagh. “It is great to be looking forward to an All Ireland Final with the club, it is only sinking in really that we are going to Croke Park,” Mannion reflects.
“It is what you dream about. It will be tough, it will be a step-up again from the Semi-Final so we will have to be prepared for it.”