Pádraic Mannion - a player who let his hurling do the talking

Padraic Mannion of Galway during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship semi-final replay match between Galway and Clare at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Co Tipperary. 
Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Padraic Mannion of Galway during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship semi-final replay match between Galway and Clare at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Co Tipperary. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Pádraic Mannion won his first All-Star last year after a terrific season and, more importantly, he collected his first county senior All-Ireland medal in the victory over Waterford.

The Ahascragh/Fohenagh club man has continued in that superb vein of form this year and is a serious contender for 2018 Hurler of the Year.

He is happy to look back to last year's historic season, but it is only a quick glimpse before his focus turns rapidly to the job in hand - Limerick this Sunday in Croke Park in the 2018 All-Ireland final.

"It was great to win last year and it meant an awful lot to us all. However, once January came around our minds focussed on trying to get back to another final," he says.

"It has been tough to get back to the final. The extra-time in the semi-final against Clare the first day was a big moment - especially with so many big game players off injured - that we could still get a win there. It proved the strength in the panel and it was a really big game for us. The subs who came on scored around four points and that was great to see."

It has been a rollercoaster summer, but one that Mannion and the team have enjoyed.

"There have been great games all through the summer and it has been super to be part of that. All the games can mean less physical training and all the players enjoy the extra games. They were coming hot and heavy there for a while, which meant all you were doing between the games was focussing on rest and recovery."

However, he says, Galway are now preparing hard for Sunday.

"You try to bring what has been going well for you to the final and produce another performance. We just take the games one at a time and focus on our performance - and this Sunday will be no different."

Limerick will be hard to beat

Mannion says Galway embraced the occasion last year and went out to perform, and that is what they will try to do again this year.

"We know that Limerick are a very good team. They showed real character to come past Cork in their semi-final, and we have the utmost respect for them.

"However, in the main we will be focussing on ourselves and what we can do to get ourselves right for the contest. They have some really talented players and our job at the back is to try to go out and stop them making big contributions."

If Mannion is nervous, or feeling the pressure of an upcoming All-Ireland final Sunday, the Ahascragh-Fohenagh man hides it well.

As he explains, there is expectation every time you tog out.

"Any game you go out in, there is pressure to perform. And there is pressure every year, especially if you get to an All Ireland final," he says.

"There is expectation on both teams this Sunday. Limerick have pressure too. They have had good success at U21 level over the past few years and they will be going to Croke Park on Sunday to win, the same as us."

"Hopefully the experience we have - from the finals in 2012, 2015 and last year - will be a help to our squad this weekend. At the end of the day, you have to put all the hype aside and go out and play your 70 minutes of hurling. When it is all stripped away, it is just a game of hurling, same as any other one."

Constant improvement the mantra

Despite Galway's display in the win over Clare in the semi-final, Mannion believes there is plenty of scope for improvement.

"There are lots of things we can improve on from the last day. From the outside people might think it was a very good performance, but we know there are things we will need to be better at on Sunday.

"We take a lot of confidence from the semi-final and the replay. We showed a lot of character and composure to get here and we will take confidence from that. However, we know we will need a top class display to beat Limerick, and they will pose different challenges for us than Clare did."

Mannion believes the team's composure has improved hopefully, which should help on Sunday.

"You have to keep playing for the 74 or 75 minutes that it takes to get the job done. We have a really balanced team, and this Sunday we will need a massive team performance. We are trying for a perfect performance, or as close to that as we can get, and if we get that, we will be very happy.

"I try to embrace the hype, enjoy it and then let your hurling do the talking. A player's job is to work hard to get the better of your man all the time. You can always go back to the roots of the game and they are the same. The basics don't change."

There is really strong bond in the Galway senior squad and they play like a group of brothers. Mannion acknowledges that and points out that it is getting stronger every season.

"When you win it brings everyone together even more. Then when you go on a team holiday together it makes the friendships even stronger, so the panel is very tight and there is a very good bond in the squad. That shows in the really tight games.

"A tight group works for each other and that is what we will have to do next weekend too. If everyone performs to their best, works really hard and we get a big team performance, then we will be difficult to stop."

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