Tuesday 17 October 2017

'He just said to me think of him when you are on the pitch' - Mannion reveals final chat with Galway great Tony Keady

Galway's Padraic Mannion and (inset) the late Tony Keady
Galway's Padraic Mannion and (inset) the late Tony Keady
Mannion: Keady inspiration. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

The late, great Tony Keady won't be far from Padraic Mannion's mind when he runs out on to Croke Park on Sunday. How could he be?

On the Monday before their All-Ireland semi-final with Tipperary, Mannion wandered down to his local pitch for a puck around while his club side trained. Keady was with the Ahascragh-Fohenagh management team and he stole over for a quick chat.

"He just said to me think of him when you are on the pitch because of the rivalry they had with Tipperary. It was a nice thing to say and the last thing he said to me."

And that was it. Keady died shortly after they beat Tipp. The pair wouldn't speak again but Mannion's memories of him are filled with warmth.

"We have a gym there in Ahascragh beside the pitch and Tony would be laughing at me when I'd be in there before training," Mannion recalled. "I don't think they had too much of that in their day.

"There are big changes when you consider the amount of games you play now versus then - it would be a lot. I would be slagging him about how few games they played to win their All-Irelands and he said back to me with a grin - '10 or 12 games is better than 10 years of s****'."

It's been a whirlwind few years for Mannion. Injury dogged him in the early part of his career but he's one of the first names on the team-sheet now, part of another Galway half-back line looking to make their mark.

While Sunday will be a big day for everyone involved in Galway hurling, it will be a special day for the Mannion family.

His brother Cathal is also part of the set-up, making up one of four sets of brothers on the Galway panel along with David and Eanna Burke (St Thomas'), Greg and Gavin Lally (Gort) and Daithi and Ronan Burke (Turloughmore).

"Sunday will be a proud day for our family - having two of us out there. It is something we would have dreamed of as we were growing up. It is nice to have a brother on the team, however the only thing that will matter on Sunday is that we win the game.

"It is a long time since we won an All-Ireland final and that is something we are hoping to change. As regards Cathal, you don't really look at him as a brother when you are training.

"We are just two players and you definitely wouldn't be holding back if you were marking him at training or anything that's for sure.

"For the parents especially, next Sunday will be a proud day."

The Mannion boys have already played in an All-Ireland final this year. They reached the All-Ireland club IHC final in Croke Park and along the way they saw off a Lismore side powered by the Shanahan brothers Dan and Maurice, who they'll square off against once more this Sunday.

Galway should be more experienced with a handful of players involved in the 2012 final and most of them around for the 2015 decider. And Mannion believes they are better off for those experiences.

We dealt with (the All-Ireland final build-up in 2015) well in the lead-up to the game. I think in the second half maybe experience of being able to keep doing what you're doing... that's definitely something we improved. Even in the semi-final against Tipp, the last two or three minutes, the composure that was shown was something we have learned over the years and improved on.

"There are lots of things we can improve on. From the outside people might think it was a very good performance (against Tipp) - but we know that there are things we will need to be better at for the final. There are plenty of things in the Tipp game that we can improve on.

"We will take a lot of confidence from the semi-final and how we finished it out. That might not have always happened in the past and we have learned from big games in the past. We showed a lot of composure and we will take confidence from that."

As for the expectation that has built in Galway as they collected league and Leinster titles?

"Any game you go out in, there is pressure and there is pressure every year, and especially if you get to an All Ireland final - there will be expectation on both teams on Sunday. Waterford have pressure too. They have been knocking on the door for a few years too."

Irish Independent

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