Friday 9 December 2016

Dublin's supersub McManamon eager to step into leading role

Published 30/05/2015 | 02:30

Kevin McManamon
Kevin McManamon

The question is only halfway asked but Kevin McManamon knows what way it's going.

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It's put to him that wading through the early stages of the Championship is more a chore than anything else for this Dublin side. And that it'll be August, when only the heavy hitters are still standing, before he really gets the buzz of Championship.

McManamon's answer is simple. That might be the case for other players but for someone who has spent long enough riding the pine, every start and every minute is precious.

"No, no it's not hard at all," said the St Jude's man. "I've only played six or seven Championship matches as a starter for Dublin so it's not hard at all."

Championship days are in scarce supply for everyone, he points out. Particularly for those who have spent a lot of their career looking over their shoulder. Or listening to teams being read out, knowing your name wasn't going to be there.

"If you do well you might have six games per summer so it's not difficult for me to play a game at Croke Park," he said.

His maths is a little bit off. In fact he has made nine starts for the Dubs in Championship. Previously, he seemed the perfect type of explosive player to unleash on tiring legs and defences whose minds were starting to wander.

Last year, though, he equalled his best number of starts in a summer, getting into the first 15 for three of the Dubs' five Championship outings, as he had done in 2012. It's a testament to the work he has done to improve his game.

He has carried that form into this year, starting all nine League games as the Dubs made a small piece of history when winning their third Division 1 title on the bounce.

And all of this while Dublin's much vaunted young talent have been getting a year older, stronger and wiser. Holding on to one of the six spots in the Dublin forwards is an achievement in itself.

With Bernard Brogan, Paul Flynn and Diarmuid Connolly near-certain starters when fit, that leaves just three spots for the rest to squabble over. And the rest contains a former Footballer of the Year in Alan Brogan.

"I've started to get a bit more consistency," McManamon reflects.

He doesn't want to count the number of sub appearances. While those cameos brought him great acclaim and made him a darling of the Hill, that's a part of his career he wants to leave behind.

There's no looking back, only forward. Being there for the first whistle and the last is the new aim and the next step is to become an automatic choice in the team.

He wants to be in Jim Gavin's thoughts in the same way that only a select few are.

"I would never have been too critical of management decisions," McManamon said, when asked why he was left on the bench so often.

"I understand it, I understand why I'm put there. Consistency was the thing for me - last summer was one of my better ones in terms of Championship games.

"Sometimes when they're 50-50 calls I lose them because I had a bit of a name as a big sub, wherever that came from!

"Look, I just get on with it, it's just part of being in a group and I want to start and play all of every game.

"For me it's about consistency and it's something I've lacked over the years. The big players on our team don't have a problem with that."

Ever-present

Having been an ever-present in the League, we can probably expect McManamon to run out in Croke Park tomorrow as part of the starting team.

Dublin are as short as 1/200 with one bookmaker to see off Longford.

And they are set to be long odds-on until July. No-one expects anything other than a straight-forward voyage through Leinster for Dublin - they have lost one and drawn one of their last 31 outings in the province.

As ever, all eyes will be on the Dubs after that. After falling so spectacularly to Donegal last year, their tactical approach will be watched with interest.

From the outside, they seem to be moving nicely but as the summer progresses, the pressure and expectation will build and the repercussions from any defeat will get more severe.

McManamon (below) believes the lessons of last year will stand to them.

"We've been sitting here before in April and the year hasn't gone well. The lads are aware, we know what people judge us on so that would have been mentioned," he said.

"The way I'm looking at the summer is that we're getting back in and it will probably be tough training.

"I'll want to have a look the Longford-Offaly game.

"We have a target from there to focus on one thing as opposed to an overview of the whole summer."

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