Matured Mannion feeling physical benefits
Paul Mannion is aiming to build on a "personal best" season for him in 2017 as he continues to benefit from a stronger physique that allows him to compete much more aggressively to lay a platform for his dazzling array of skills.
Mannion's second-half performance in last year's All-Ireland final was hugely influential in pushing Dublin over the line for a third successive All-Ireland title and he looked to be continuing that menacing form in Castlebar when he scored a magnificent goal before pulling up with a hamstring injury that kept him out for much of March until he returned for the league final.
The Kilmacud Crokes man has made clear physical improvements since he rejoined the squad for the start of the 2016 season, having spent the previous year studying in China.
"I was more able for this level over the last couple of years. The physical conditioning has come too. And then, things just fell into place."
He admits he was lighter than he would have liked in his first two years, 2013 and 2014, but feels maturity and being used to the stage are the biggest factors in his development into one of the game's best forwards.
"It's just maybe as a young player, it can be difficult, it can take time. There's a lot to learn. It's just about getting comfortable as well. A lot of guidance, a lot of help from the older lads, just growing up and backing myself and being more comfortable in myself and on the big stage."
Mannion had been hoping for a full league campaign but has become accustomed to early-season injuries like what he suffered in Castlebar.
"The last three or four Februarys, I picked up hamstring injuries mainly, and a quad injury in 2016. They were mainly from Sigerson weekends, or maybe the time of year, the heavy pitches. Obviously pre-season takes its toll too."