Padraic Mannion delighted to be back in Championship mode
By Cian O’Connell
Padraic Mannion initially missed the roar and hum from the Croke Park crowd, but once the Leinster SHC semi-final got under way it was business as usual.
That splendid success over Wexford illustrated Mannion’s versatility and value to the Galway cause, but the Ahascragh-Fohenagh clubman delivered another effective display.
Shane O’Neill’s first match in charge of Galway culminated in a fine victory to set up an intriguing provincial decider against Kilkenny at GAA headquarters on Saturday evening.
Mannion acknowledges that it took a little time to adjust at the Jones Road venue. “I think when we ran out onto the pitch and maybe a little bit in the warm-up, it was a bit different alright,” Mannion says.
“You are just used to having the noise in the background but once the game is thrown-in it, it was fine and like any other game really.”
In the centrefield exchanges Mannion excelled, but he stressed the importance of always remaining vigilant when Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford are involved.
“It’s like any game you play against Wexford, it’s very tough and they just challenge you in so many different ways that you just have to be really sharp and really on it,” Mannion responds.
“I think early on, even myself, I was a little bit off it early on and we nearly got caught for a goal. Thankfully we grew into the game and got on top eventually.
“When you play a team like Wexford there’s a certain element of focusing on yourself, but if they have runners from deep forwards have to track. So it’s very different.
“You can have whatever system you want, but you still have to be able to counteract their system. I think that was a lot of it, we were just tracking them a lot and you could end up anywhere really.
“That’s the kind of game it was. We saw a few of our half forwards back, just had to track their men back deep at times, but that’s just the way the game was.”
A familiar foe now awaits at the weekend with the black and amber striped team from Kilkenny bringing the next challenge.
“Different in some ways, but very similar in some ways too,” Mannion remarks about the Kilkenny task compared to the previous outing with Wexford.
“Obviously the fact that they don’t play the he sweeper, they’d be known for playing a more orthodox 15 on 15 as they call it. They’re still an unbelievable team and you never, never have an easy game against them. So I’m sure it’s not going to be any different.”
Galway’s early Championship exit in 2019 and the pandemic this year ensured there was a real sense of relief to return to high stakes action.
“The first game I found myself probably a bit more nervous than I would have been before just because it’s been so long and I had an injury or two myself, so I hadn’t an awful lot done,” Mannion states. “You’d be a bit anxious alright but once you get out it’s great to be out there and you enjoy it.”
The loss to Dublin hurt Galway to the core highlighting the narrow margins of Championship hurling. “We didn’t speak about it as a group,” Mannion remarks. “Maybe individually, for lads it’s might have been at the back of their minds.
“That seems so long ago now. Even the League earlier on seems like a different season altogether now. A long break but with all the club games we feel like we’ve a lot of hurling done in some ways. It was great to get back into the Championship mode again.”