Monday 26 September 2016

'Supersub' Kevin McManamon aiming to have steps in tune for August

Football's greatest impact substitute is hoping shift in focus can anchor him with Dubs in 2016

Published 26/01/2016 | 02:30

Kevin McManamon and Kieran Donaghy at yesterday’s launch of the 2016 Allianz NFL, which gets underway on Saturday night when Dublin face Kerry in Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Kevin McManamon and Kieran Donaghy at yesterday’s launch of the 2016 Allianz NFL, which gets underway on Saturday night when Dublin face Kerry in Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile

The wish sounded so simple it may well have fallen from the lips of a starry-eyed child.

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But instead it came from a three-time All-Ireland-winning Dub, without whom there might not be such strong blue tidal waves lapping up on inter-county shores right now.

Some of Dublin's most iconic goals in this present surge of dominance have come courtesy of Kevin McManamon and his propensity for big plays on big days.

He has five career championship goals to his credit, four of which were bagged in either an All-Ireland final or semi-finals against Kerry and Mayo.

Can it really get any bigger and better for a poacher like him? Yet there's a vacuum in McManamon that you sense an urgency in him to fill.

He wants to take his place behind the band and march on a big August or September Croke Park day. That straightforward.

Since making his debut in 2010, Dublin have played in three All-Ireland finals and seven (including last year's Mayo replay) All-Ireland semi-finals, yet not once has McManamon had the simple pleasure of filing into line and taking off in the direction of the Canal End before one of those games.

It seems impossible for a player so indelibly linked with these dates but for McManamon, no start from 10 just doesn't stack up.

The 2014 game against Monaghan apart, he's had to sit out the start of all six All-Ireland quarter-finals they've been involved in too.

Congested

So 2016 takes on a new focus. Alan Brogan may be gone but the Dublin attack appears more congested than ever and McManamon knows there's a requirement for something different from him.

Inevitably, most conversations with him of this nature gravitate towards the 'supersub' status he might just endure more than enjoy these days. And inevitably McManamon will diplomatically talk about still wanting to start but doing his bit for the team nonetheless.

But this time there is clarity about what he wants from his season. Starting is a "big bullseye" for him. "I want to do something that I've never done before and that's be a big player for 70 minutes, rather than what I've become accustomed to or what management have decided for me," he said.

"Circumstances have decided as well. Players playing better than me in the All-Ireland series. But there's no doubt that that's the goal."

A shoulder injury that was triggered in the 'Game for Anto' charity match in Belfast in November 2014 eventually required surgery 12 months later and has parked him for the O'Byrne Cup and this weekend's league match against Kerry. But he's fine with that. After six previous seasons with Dublin, he needs a shift of emphasis to take him where he needs to.

"I've played in a lot of O'Byrne Cups. I like it and I like games and I like playing in the mud as well. But this is my seventh season with Dublin.

"I need to find a different avenue this year of how to get something out of myself because trying to deliver a little more in the last two or three months of the year is something I would be looking to do."

Such elevation is still, he feels, very much within his control. His record off the bench should not preclude him from starting these games, he insists.

Last year he played in all three Leinster Championship matches but, by his own admission, wasn't sufficiently "slick" enough against Westmeath in the final before a "tough" training match in the weeks after sealed his fate for the Fermanagh quarter-final.

He hasn't been reluctant to assure management of his 70-minute worth. "I get on well with Jim (Gavin). He'll always listen to your opinion and he'll always trash it out with you," reflected McManamon.

"I have said it to him and I would feel the solution is down to my application. It's down to me playing well in training in August and September which I haven't done over the years.

"I think sometimes it's a bit lazy to say, 'The reason he's not starting me is because I make an impact off the bench'. That's not the case. I feel I'm in control of it."

He's become accustomed to big days and big nights in Croke Park, the birth of the 'Spring Series' aligning with his own establishment at inter-county level.

"It's nice to be able to play against the big teams, something I found very difficult when I started my career was to play in Croke Park," he said.

"I found it a little daunting, particularly in 2010. I didn't deal with the pressure very well. I was very nervous."

Irish Independent

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