Dublin subs learned from mistakes of first half to make Mayo pay says Kevin McManamon
YOU just can’t keep a good man down. Kevin McManamon wanted to start Sunday’s All-Ireland final as much as anybody. Look back through previous interviews and he makes no bones about the frustration of being labelled Dublin’s super-sub through the years.
But the St Jude’s man knows there are worse tags to have and when he is thrown into the fray, he is ready and willing to inflict maximum damage.
McManamon bided his time as the Dubs laboured during the first half in the face of a solid Mayo defensive performance before being sprung from the bench in place of Eoghan O’Gara at half-time.
And, with Diarmuid Connolly also coming on to good effect, the Dubs subs once again had a huge say as the Sky Blues landed a third All-Ireland title in-a-row.
“It’s a cool place to be where you’re able to watch in the first half - you can spot what we had planned to do and what we were doing. There was a big gap there,” said the 30-year-old.
“We only scored five points in the first half, which wouldn’t be our standards. We weren’t getting enough penetration, territory; we needed to get more inside.
“It was a serious game, serious intensity, I found it difficult to get to the pace of it and it took a while.
“They were getting a lot of bodies back and maybe that’s something we didn’t plan for. We just changed it a small bit, but I won’t be going too much into our tactical twists… Jim would love that!”
Much was made of the strength of Dublin’s bench throughout the summer, but McManamon insists it was never looked upon as a secret weapon inside the dressing room.
“It certainly wasn’t spoken about in the players’ circles because we were all itching to start the game, naturally.
“Maybe it’s something the guys [management] were trying to hold back - they’ve spoken before about finishing with a strong team as well as starting with a strong team.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure, but we would have felt that there’s no point in having talent on the bench if you’re not going to bring intelligence and energy onto the park.”
McManamon’s pace and direct running helped poke holes in the Mayo rearguard as the Dubs were forced, once again, to display nerves of steel as they trailed by two points deep into the second half.
With so many men who have been there and done it before, it should come as no surprise that they always find a way to get over the line, and McManamon admitted the shared experience of the group had played a huge part in Sunday’s dramatic win.
He added: "We have a great bunch of players, we’ve really good friendships, deep friendships with these guys and when you have been through the wars so often it’s just great to celebrate it together.
"I think we’re still in shock a small bit. We’re just delighted to get the job done."
And he reserved special praise for match-winner Dean Rock after the Ballymun Kickham's star managed to keep his nerves in check to send over the all-important free that sealed the deal.
“I have unbelievable respect for the amount of practice he does,” said McManamon.
“I don’t think I would have wanted anyone else in that position with the game on the line and a minute to go. He’s just a legend with the amount of practice he does and how cool he is under pressure and I’m delighted.
“He took a big hit in the League final against Kerry. He took that on his own shoulders and it hit him pretty hard so it’s a nice little twist that he got the winner today. He’s an absolute legend, so fair play to him.”