Padraic Mannion: 'Panel is more important now than it ever was'
By Cian O'Connell
Ahead of another eagerly anticipated hurling summer Galway’s spring is about experimentation with Padraic Mannion delighted to be occupying a central role.
Club commitments and injuries ensure Galway’s panel is currently stocked with promising youngsters eager to impress in the Allianz League.
A victory over Laois was followed by a draw against Carlow with Mannion acknowledging the considerable strikes made by Colm Bonnar’s developing outfit.
That so many emerging Galway players are being afforded an opportunity by Micheal Donoghue is important according to Mannion.
“With the few Galway clubs involved in the All Ireland series you have a good few lads that would have been starters in the last number of years are unavailable to us,” Mannion admits.
“It is a great opportunity for some of the newer lads or some of the lads that mightn't have got much game time in the last few years to get an opportunity in competitive games.
“Micheal has always said that when you are given a chance you have to try to take it. The opportunities the boys have got they mightn't have got them in other years.
“The panel is more important now than it ever was. When you get a chance against teams like Dublin and Carlow, who were really competitive, Laois, for lads to get game time against them is as close to Championship as you are going to get. It is valuable experience to them.”
With a string of prominent figures absent Mannion is now one of the more established players involved presently in the League campaign. “The only thing that differs is your experience,” Mannion replies when asked about the difference compared to when commencing his inter-county career.
“You try to use that to your advantage in the lead up to games and things like that. You still get the butterflies no matter how long you are playing.
“It doesn't really matter what age you are if you are given the jersey you just try to do all you can whether it is your fourth year there or your first year. You just want to nail down a spot, to do all you can for the team.
“When I came in a few of the older fellas helped me along. I felt that benefited me an awful lot, so if there is anything you can do for someone starting their first game, even a quiet word. If it helps them at all obviously you will do it.”
All Ireland champions in 2017, beaten finalists in 2015 and 2018, Galway have achieved a level of consistency which remains one of Donoghue’s chief objectives. “Yeah, that is something when Micheal and the lads came in it was something they put massive emphasis on,” Mannion says.
“Obviously when you are playing every year and every game you go out you want to perform to your best, not to be up and down. In previous years even supporters were probably wondering what Galway is going to turn up today.
“The support we have now is unbelievable, the amount of goodwill that is there for us. I think that is a credit, not just to the players, but to the management that they have brought that level of consistency.
“With Galway being competitive all the time, that is something we really wanted to bring to the team. We have done it. Obviously when you are getting to finals and semi-finals you want to win as many as you can. In the bigger picture being consistent is one of the main attributes we are trying to bring.
“No matter what game we go to now whether it is in Croke Park, Thurles, Pearse Stadium, even Carlow the last day the support we had. Any time we got a score you could hear a serious roar from the Galway supporters.
“I don't know if that would have happened seven or eight years ago, I don't know if that support was there. It is up to us to keep that support, to give the supporters something to want to follow us for.”
Carlow gleaned a point and plenty of praise for their display against Galway with Mannion adamant that significant lessons were learned at Netwatch Cullen Park. “I think on the outside people look in and think a big team is playing one of the so called teams that isn't competing for Liam MacCarthy and that they will go in to walk through that game,” Mannion states.
“As a player you realise it isn't that easy. We had seen what Carlow had done against Dublin the week before, they had been really, really competitive. We knew we were going to get a massive battle. Obviously it was a great experience for some of our younger players. Carlow are an improving team, they are really competitive.
“We have them in the Championship again and we know well what they are going to bring to that game. One of the things that stuck out for me was the support, the Galway people down there. It is really satisfying as a player to see that.”
These are interesting times for the game with so many counties believing that the Liam MacCarthy Cup can be hoisted. The standard and depth of talent is evident throughout the League and Championship. “You would notice it because when you are playing them teams week in, week out there is no easy game,” Mannion remarks.
“The amount of competitive teams that is there any team can beat anyone else if they get it right on the day. As a player you're trying to focus on yourself, try not to get caught up in it, but for an outsider or spectator, it is really an exciting time for hurling.”
Another adventure is underway with Mannion striving to ensure the maroon and white stay relevant.