This article was written by Kevin O’Brien and published by The 42 on friday 1st April.
PAUL MANNION IS content with life outside the inter-county bubble as he rehabs the knee injury that forced him to miss Kilmacud Crokes’ run to the All-Ireland club final.
Mannion suffered a torn lateral ligament in his left knee during the Leinster semi-final against Portarlington. It forced him to miss the provincial decider win against Naas and subsequent clashes against Padraig Pearses and Kilcoo in the All-Ireland series.
“I thought I might have gotten away with it without it being too serious but in the days that followed it was very painful and I wasn’t recovering at all and once I got a scan it confirmed the ligament had fully detached from the bone. And the only fix was surgery.
“I looked at the options, but once I had the surgery there was definitely no chance [of playing]. Without the surgery I’d left it about three weeks and it wasn’t recovering at all I couldn’t walk so there was no chance,” he adds.
“All kind of things go through your head, what if this happened or what if that happened but I have learned to park those thoughts because you drive yourself mad thinking about those what ifs, and not just what if I was around or what if something else happened.
“I spent the first week two weeks going through all that in my head and eventually you just need to move on and accept these kind of things happen in sport and that I have also been on the other side of those kind of results many times myself. So just accept it move on and hope for better days really.”
The 28-year-old says he’s nearing full fitness and if the All-Ireland had taken place in it’s traditional slot on St Patrick’s Day, he’d probably have made it back in time.
“The physio that’s working with me had said that if the final was on Paddy’s Day as it used to be…I was asking him would I be going for that and he said definitely.
“It mightn’t have been 100% but certainly by that time I felt like I could have done something on the pitch. It was unfortunate timing but now I’ve got plenty of time to recover and make sure I’m in full health for the championship this year.
“It’s flying, much better now, back running, squatting and doing everything in the gym. It’s been like that for the last few weeks and I’m close to 100pc I’ve been really, really lucky with the recovery and the surgeon Ray Moran is probably the best around, he did it out in Santry so I was fortunate to have him do that.
“There’s not a bit rush on it now because we’ve got league games coming up of course but I just want to make sure that the knee is more than 100% right before I go back training on it at all. I’ve been out running, kicking and it feels great from that point of view. The step into full competitive match play is a big one as well so I’ll take my time with that.”
He believes Kilmacud will react the right way to the heartbreaking extra-time defeat to Kilcoo.
“I don’t think it will have any kind of negative impact. In fact, I think it’s only made lads more hungry for an All-Ireland win. I know it’s definitely made me more hungry as well.
“Obviously the Dublin championship is the first big step on that road and that’s got all of our attention now. We had a meeting to regroup after that loss and discuss plans for the year and things we can improve on.
“Everyone was vocal about taking it to the next level and really, really pushing to get back to that stage again. I think it’s reinvigorated a lot of us.
“Management are all still fully bought in and there will be new younger lads that are coming into the team this year that will be pushing for places and adding to the team as well. I think everyone is really optimistic and excited for the year ahead.”
Mannion opted out of the Dublin panel at the end of the 2020 season and declined to answer any questions relating to Dessie Farrell’s squad.
The three-time All-Star picked up six All-Ireland medals during his inter-county career before stepping away due to the commitment levels involved.
Earlier this year Mannion confirmed he has no plan to return to the Sky Blues fold and he says he’s enjoying the freedom that came with his decision.
“It’s well-documented the commitment and time that goes into playing intercounty football and sometimes when you are in that it can be a bubble and I have enjoyed being outside that a bit and being able to spend more time and focus with the club and other things so it’s been a nice time.”
Mannion’s friend and former team-mate Jack McCaffrey is another high-profile absentee from the Dublin set-up.
“I think he’s off to Africa this summer for another few months there,” says Mannion. “He’s a bit of a free spirit, he just goes where the wind takes him.
“He seems to be doing well. I met him in Manchester a couple of weeks ago for the United-City game, it didn’t go too well. He’s in great form, loving life. ”