Mannion gamble pays off for Kilmacud Crokes
By John Harrington
Before a ball was kicked in Sunday’s AIB All-Ireland Club Football Final, the biggest talking point was the late inclusion of Paul Mannion in the Kilmacud team.
He hadn’t played for them since the Dublin SFC semi-final against Thomas Davis back in October when he suffered an ankle injury that required surgery.
The expectation was that Sunday’s Final would come to early for him to have any involvement in it, and after their hard-fought victory over Glen Robbie Brennan admitted that’s what he thought too until a week before game.
“No, to tell you the truth,” he said when asked did he think Mannion would be able to play some part in the clash against Glen.
“We weren’t sure at all. the lads will back this up – he has done nothing. And I mean nothing. He has had, maybe, 30 minutes of a training session last Saturday. So it was a massive, massive gamble.
“There were plenty of discussions between management. We didn’t know whether to start him or to leave him until the last 15 minutes. But what we came down to was that you could leave him to the last 15 but what if it flops? It might deflate us. At least this way, we were able to start him and if it wasn’t happening, then maybe we could change something then.
“So it was a massive, massive gamble. I don’t know how he is able to do what he has done. I think it’s four months almost to the day since the injury. It was a tough call but he has put a lot of work in.”
Brennan didn’t think it was a risk medically to stress-test Mannion’s ankle, he just wasn’t sure if the forward be up to the pace of the game after his four-month lay-off.
“To be fair, medically it was fine,” he said. “The ankle was okay.
“Little bit of tendonitis on the tendon itself but nothing to stop him from that point of view.
“So, it was more just aerobically and football wise, no matter how good he is, if you don’t play for that long, the question mark would be, would he be able to come in and show, win a ball.
“We saw nothing to suggest that he would be able to. We were basically just going off the fact that it’s Paul and he’s been here before and done it.
“Yeah, a gamble, but whether it paid off or not, I am not sure. We are here and we won.”
Mannion had a relatively quite games by his standards. He looked a bit rusty when he kicked two first-half wides but he did manage to win some good ball and kicked an important free in the second half.
The pacy attacker has committed to playing for Dublin in 2023 after taking two years out of inter-county football and Brennan has no doubts he’ll be back to his best in short order.
“Knowing Paul, he will get better,” says Brennan. “He’s probably still not going past guys like he will. It’ll be to the benefit of Dublin and to the disadvantage of everybody else in the country.
“How he’s done it, I genuinely have no idea. It’s not a lie. We weren’t stringing people along – he was never, ever, ever in our plans until last Saturday. One of those things.”