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Where are they now?

Noel Mannion

(Former rugby international)

Growing up in Ballinasloe, Noel Mannion had plenty of sports to choose from, he played everything from soccer to Gaelic football, but it was rugby that he chose to focus on.

Mannion went to school in Garbally College and while there his rugby career began to blossom. He played with the local team and represented Connacht at schools and under 20 level. He then went on to play for Corinthians where he gained his first Ireland cap in 1988 against Western Samoa. From there he moved to Lansdowne and then to Buccaneers and all the while he continued to play for Connacht.

Mannion earned 16 caps for Ireland, lining out both as No 8 and flanker for his country. He played in the World Cup against Japan in 1991 but counts playing against the All Blacks twice in one week in 1989 as his greatest sporting memory.

The rugby public, however, will probably most remember Mannion for his try against Wales in Cardiff Arms Park in 1989. He blocked Bleddyn Bowen's fly kick on the Irish 22-metre line, got the ball and headed for the Welsh line. He ran almost 70 yards to get the score, pursued by most of the Welsh team, a remarkable sight that has earned its place in the history books.

Although the former rugby international achieved huge success in rugby, he didn't completely forget about other sports. He continued to play Gaelic football and lined out with the Galway senior footballers on a number of occasions.

He is still a dedicated Connacht follower but admits that the future for his former side looks worrying.

"I think the budget that they have is certainly not working for them when you look at their current run of form. They need to start achieving Heineken Cup recognition, unfortunately that isn't happening at the moment. They need to turn that around to get the support back and the only way to do that is by winning."

Mannion was a brand manager with Dubarry shoes before setting up his own Sports Shop in Ballinasloe eight years ago. The former Ireland player also coaches the senior team in the town and prior to that he coached in the underage ranks. He also commentates on rugby matches both locally and nationally.

Sunday Indo Sport