Mannion driving on after bumpy road
Padraic Mannion settles on a couch in a Croke Park corporate suite and slowly reveals his journey. He sits here now as a league champion with the summer opening up before him.
After Galway swashbuckled their way past the All-Ireland champions, his side now lead the market in the betting for the All-Ireland title. Galway is daring to dream again and Mannion is at the centre of it, though things could have turned out very differently for the Ahascragh-Fohenagh man.
While his brother Cathal always seemed destined for the top, the elder Mannion's journey has seen many bumps in the road.
As a teenager, his hurling career was unremarkable. He went in for Galway trials alright but when the phone stopped ringing to invite him back, he wasn't unduly moved. With a shrug of the shoulders, he got on with things.
It was different for Cathal, 19 months his junior. He got into the Galway system young and stayed in it. "I would have went for trials U14 and U16 and my first year minor," Padraic explains. "I don't think I was ever too bothered about them to be honest. "My second year minor was my first time playing with Galway, I don't know was I … I didn't develop enough as a hurler until I was a bit older. Cathal was always a step or two ahead."
His minor year in 2011 yielded the almost ubiquitous All-Ireland medal. Mannion had done well enough to be drafted straight into the U21s for the following season and while he didn't play that year, he looked to have his career on track. However, injury struck effectively ruling him out of county action in 2013 and 2014. And by the time he made his league debut against Tipperary in 2015, it was four years since he had last pulled on a Galway jersey.
A prolapsed disc cost him two whole seasons. "You'd be getting pain all the way down to your ankle, and all the way up, the sciatic nerve. There was times when I thought, 'Jesus, I mightn't be able to get back to a state where I would be able to hurl again.'"
But he would hurl again. His debut against Tipp in the league of 2015 was a big moment, as was his first championship start in the draw against Dublin. Six days later, in the Tullamore replay, Padraic made his second championship appearance and Cathal hit a hat-trick as they cruised. Proof positive that the Mannion boys and arrived.
"It was a big day alright, but I think ... even the day getting the phone call from Anthony (to join the panel) was probably bigger again ... just after doing so much rehab and mentally going through an awful lot."