Kilmacud Crokes footballer Paul Mannion in attendance at the AIB Leinster GAA Football Senior Club Final Media Day at MW Hire O'Moore Park in Portlaoise, ahead of the AIB GAA Leinster Senior Club Football Championship Final, which takes place at Croke Park, this Saturday, January 8th at 5pm and will be broadcast live on RTE 2.
Kilmacud Crokes footballer Paul Mannion in attendance at the AIB Leinster GAA Football Senior Club Final Media Day at MW Hire O'Moore Park in Portlaoise, ahead of the AIB GAA Leinster Senior Club Football Championship Final, which takes place at Croke Park, this Saturday, January 8th at 5pm and will be broadcast live on RTE 2.

Mannion 'should be good' for AIB Leinster SFC Final


By John Harrington

Paul Mannion is confident he’ll be fit to play for Dublin champions Kilmacud Crokes in Saturday’s AIB Leinster Club SFC Final against Kildare champions Naas.

The in-form attacker jarred his knee in the Leinster semi-final against Portarlington, but it has responded well to treatment and he returned to training this week.

“It's not bad,” said Mannion. “The semi-final against Portarlington in the first half, just under a tackle, I fell awkwardly and twisted it a bit. I'd done similar on it a couple of years back, and it aggravated that. It took a week to ten days to settle down, but it's alright now.

“I'm training on it. One more session to get through [on Thursday night], the last bits of prep and should be good to go for Saturday.”

Mannion has been in such a rich vein of form for his club this season that Dublin supporters are keeping their fingers crossed he’ll commit to playing for the county team this year after taking a year out in 2021.

It doesn’t sound like that’s top of the Kilmacud man’s agenda, though, even if he hasn’t entirely ruled the prospect out.

“I've told the lads that I don't plan on it for now,” said Mannion. “I'm happy enough just focusing on the club. I have big decisions to make with work and where I'll be this year, in general.

“When I spoke to Dessie last year when I was stepping away, he made clear to me then that the door would still be open, and having spoken to lads on the team more recently, they've said the same as well. I do appreciate that.

“As I've said before, I do take things one year at a time. I've been pretty terrible at planning things beyond that timeframe. I've told them that I do appreciate that, and if a time comes when I would like to go back, and do get that urge again, that would be great. For the time being, I'm happy out with the decision and just focusing on the club, and different plans that I have.”

Dublin could certainly have done with the Kilmacud star last year as their bid for a seventh All-Ireland SFC title in a row was thwarted in dramatic circumstances by Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Man of the Match Paul Mannion of Kilmacud Crokes with his dad Tommy, his aunt Sarah, and his cousins Ciara and Oisín after the Go Ahead Dublin County Senior Club Football Championship Final match between St Jude's and Kilmacud Crokes at Parnell Park in Dublin.
Man of the Match Paul Mannion of Kilmacud Crokes with his dad Tommy, his aunt Sarah, and his cousins Ciara and Oisín after the Go Ahead Dublin County Senior Club Football Championship Final match between St Jude's and Kilmacud Crokes at Parnell Park in Dublin.

And Mannion admits it was difficult watching from the sidelines as his former team-mates suffered a first defeat in 46 championship matches.

“It was strange,” he said. “You're back to being a fan again. You do analyse things based on the knowledge of how we would have liked to play in the past. In ways, there was a lot less pressure. We were able to enjoy it a little bit more.

“Watching them lose was difficult as well. You know how much it means to a lot of the players, how much it meant to Dessie. That was difficult to take and watch. It's part and parcel of it. It was bound to happen at some stage. I was able to enjoy a lot more things throughout the summer. I focused on different things. It was mixed.”

The break from inter-county football clearly has done Mannion no harm. He has been outstanding as the attacking fulcrum of this Kilmacud Crokes team and admits he’s really enjoying his football at the moment.

“Definitely,” he says. “I suppose I had some time off during the summer, which is new for me. I was just able to spend it with the club. It probably helped my game with the club team, being more familiar with different players and management having more time to try me in different positions. That's helped a lot. I'm enjoying football at the moment.”

It's been an incredible year for Kilmacud Crokes, winning the double of senior football and hurling championships in Dublin.

Mannion was immediately engulfed by his family after the Dublin SFC Final win over St. Jude’s, and admits the buzz those closest to him have gotten from their run to tomorrow’s Leinster Final has made it all the more satisfying for him.

“Like any journey throughout the Dublin championship, it's great,” he said. “When you get into Leinster, the whole club and community seems to row in behind the team. The bunting and flags are out along the roads around Kilmacud.

“Families and friends are getting excited for the away games, the trip down to Páric Tailteann, and then of course taking the club to Croke Park is just a really special occasion.

"We were there last in 2009 for the All-Ireland final. It's only Mark Vaughan who remains on the squad - he's still hanging in there in the background. Other than Vaughny, it's a completely new experience for the whole club, the whole squad. It was just amazing to get to Croke Park and see the Crokes jerseys around the place, Croke families and colours in the stands. Hopefully, we can top it off with a Leinster crown on Saturday.”

A youthful Paul Mannion (far left) celebrates after Kilmacud Crokes 2009 AIB All-Ireland Club SFC Final victory over Crossmaglen Rangers. 
A youthful Paul Mannion (far left) celebrates after Kilmacud Crokes 2009 AIB All-Ireland Club SFC Final victory over Crossmaglen Rangers. 

Mannion was also on the Croke Park pitch back in 2009 to join in the Kilmacud celebrations as a young supporter. You’ll spot him on the far left of the photo above this paragraph.

“That was me alright,” says Vaughan. “I remember it well. I've seen those photos doing the rounds. Brutal hair cut on me, with long, bleached blonde hair. I remember the whole day really well. There were families back in the club house, hundreds of kids going around playing on the pitch out in front of the club house. It was just a really brilliant night for the whole club.

“Those are the kind of nights you want to bring back when you're preparing for Leinster finals. I know you try not to think about the outcome, after-match celebrations, but they're just really special occasions for the whole community. That's what we're trying to emulate.”