Sunday 27 May 2018

McManamon ready to carry 'supersub' burden for Dublin

Kevin McManamon shoots to score the decisive goal against Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final. Along with Dean Rock, he has contributed handsomely from the bench
Kevin McManamon shoots to score the decisive goal against Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final. Along with Dean Rock, he has contributed handsomely from the bench
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

In his acclaimed 1992 autobiography 'Out Of Our Skins' the former Meath midfielder Liam Hayes dedicated short chapters to some of the individuals he had shared the dressing-room with.

For the title of each chapter he addressed the players not by their names but by the position they played. So the 'full-back', the 'midfielder', the 'right half-forward' and the 'right corner-forward' were profiled with Hayes' inner thoughts on stellar figures of his team, Mick Lyons, Gerry McEntee, David Beggy and Colm O'Rourke.

The last of these five chapters focused on the 'substitute'.

That Hayes thought it worthy to devote a chapter to Mattie McCabe reflected the esteem he held him in for the contribution he made.

In the 70 consecutive championship games that John O'Leary played for Dublin, McCabe was the only player to score three goals against him, all in consecutive Leinster finals between 1987 and 1989.

Ironically, for a player around whom the perception was built that he was better coming off the bench, he started those first two games against Dublin.

Talented

But McCabe, a supremely talented footballer that Hayes felt was the team's most skilful, found it hard to shake off the tag of 'supersub'.

"Perhaps it was just more co-incidental that Mattie was more often able to re-enact the genius he displayed on the training field, whenever he was hurriedly introduced as a substitute midway through matches. Or perhaps being told to remove his tracksuit and warm up on the sideline didn't give his own doubts time to develop," wrote Hayes of his colleague.

Kevin McManamon knows all about the weight that perception can carry, a perception greatly embellished by his strike to finish Kerry the last day.

When he bagged 1-6 from two of the games that he started against Louth and Wexford in the 2012 Leinster quarter-final and semi-final, he could have been forgiven for thinking that his days as Dublin's best known substitute, courtesy of his goal to haul in Kerry in the 2011 All-Ireland final, were over.

But after being replaced by Paddy Andrews in the 2012 Leinster final against Meath, McManamon has not started a game for Dublin since.

Since making his debut against Wexford in 2010, McManamon has played 19 times for Dublin but has started in just six of those. Only once has he started and finished a game, that 2012 opener against Louth.

This year has been the first in four that he has failed to start at all after missing out through injury against Westmeath. Dublin's substitutions have been carefully planned and with just 18 players used from the start the pattern of introductions has become almost routine.

So too has the scoring contribution off the bench with 3-15 an impressive fillip from the cavalry coming in. Dean Rock's two-point contribution in each of his five appearances has been a staggered measure of consistency.

Rock will hope that he can avoid a perception that may develop with him that he too is better coming into a game when it is looser than starting it.

Early in his career the former Kerry great Seanie Walsh, father of AFL player and 2009 All-Ireland winner Tommy, had the 'supersub' label attached to him and it took more than a season to shake it off.

He spent the five games of the 1976 championship making quality impacts off the bench – he scored 2-5 – but never managing to convince Mick O'Dwyer that he was worthy of a start in any of them.

In latter years the perception built up around another Meath player, Jody Devine, was that he too served the team better with an impact role and when he scored an amazing sequence of points to turn extra-time in the 1997 Leinster semi-final replay against Kildare back in Meath's favour, that impression flourished.

That he didn't start the next day against Kildare in the second replay after those four points appeared to back that up.

In hurling Galway's Noel Lane and Wexford's Billy Byrne carved out careers as impact subs late in their careers.

Perhaps the most famous score of all, the goal to win the 1982 All-Ireland final, was scored by Seamus Darby, who had been on the field for just a few minutes. But Darby had been a regular fixture earlier in that season for Offaly.

The contributions of Maurice Fitzgerald and Peter Canavan towards the latter end of their great careers were restricted to replacement roles (Canavan did start the 2005 All-Ireland final).

But no player, it seems, has matched the profile of a 'supersub' more than the stocky St Jude's forward McManamon.

His goals against Kerry and the profile of his championship appearances guarantee that.

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