Early in his Dublin career, Kevin McManamon set up a fresh food business with a pal to guarantee flexible working hours and more time for football.
“It was just so I could play football really, I didn’t really enjoy it that much,” he said. “Long days and it just didn’t get me fired up.”
Even now, working in a sports psychology role that he loves, the goal-poacher reckons it won’t be until his football career is over that he can ‘commit fully to a set-up or a team or whatever it is’. So the suggestion that he and his Dublin football colleagues enjoy some sort of privileged, moneyed existence, which has contributed to their dominance of virtually an entire decade, gets short shrift.
Jim Gavin picked up on the theme after last weekend’s Leinster final win over Meath, Dublin’s 14th provincial win in 15 years, saying it’s insulting to suggest that a disproportionate level of coaching funding, and not sheer graft, triggered the boom era.
Six-time All-Ireland winner McManamon nodded in agreement: “Yeah, it comes out the odd time and people say it’s down to money, you’re kind of just used to it at this stage. Some people are trying to use it as bait to wind us up. You just kind of smile at it.
“Anyone in my career that’s supported me or that’s helped me become the player I am doesn’t get paid. That’s how I would look at it.
McManamon’s take won’t appease those who argue that the GAA has created a monster by investing so much financially in Dublin. Between 2007 and 2018, the county has received just shy of €18m in games development and coaching funding. Next up is Cork at just over €1.4m.
“I don’t know, I don’t know the (financial) figures, I don’t know anything about it,” said McManamon. “I’d leave that up to John Costello and the lads in the county board but does it affect us? It’s hard to know.
“Obviously if you say those figures it makes it sound like it does. I don’t feel it or experience it.”
McManamon’s sense is that Dublin’s success is cyclical and that they’re in the middle of a glory era, which will inevitably end.
“I remember years when we couldn’t buy a Leinster title,” he said. “Look, we’ve got a lot of seriously talented players that don’t come along every day. Time will tell. Obviously we’ve been dominant the last number of years. I think it is (cyclical).”
It was reported earlier this month that Dublin players like McManamon can earn up to €6,000 for a single promotional appearance, as multiple All-Ireland winners. Again, McManamon said the figures touted don’t tally with his own experiences in blue.
“I don’t know where they came up with those figures because I’ve never seen anything like that to be honest with you, I don’t know where it came from, saying that people are getting six grand to go and give medals out? Like, that’s not true, that’s just not true,” he said.
What’s certain is that Dublin players are viewed as attractive promotional tools, and companies are prepared to pay for their services.
“If people are giving up their time, and if they’re training as much as they are and they’re going out and doing a sponsorship thing, all well and good, they get a few bob, but I haven’t personally seen figures like that,” he said.
The 32-year-old is coming towards the end of a storied career that has yielded 53 championship appearances, 32 of those as a substitute. He has scored 8-44 in that period, 5-16 of that coming as a sub with his goals against Kerry in 2011 and 2013 etched in history. He is sure to go down as the GAA’s most famous supersub with just two starts in the Championship — against Carlow in 2017 and Roscommon in 2018 — since being an ever-present throughout the summer of 2016.
“I still think I’m good enough to start,” he said. “I was probably a bit sluggish throughout the league. Over the last few weeks it’s come good. I’m in really, really good shape physically. I’m fast and I’m playing really well in training. It’s just a thing that you have to get better than these guys; Con O’Callaghan or Kilkenny or Costello or Scully. That’s easier said than done.
“I have a few goals every year I’d like to achieve, I’ve kind of gone more short-term as my career’s gone on; making it into the 26, making it into the 21 on matchdays, and then at some stage this year hopefully I’ll be able to play 70 minutes.”
It’s a certainty now that McManamon won’t have Diarmuid Connolly for competition in the Dublin panel this summer. A peace deal was reportedly brokered in May to return the St Vincent’s man to the panel but he has now decided to spend the summer in the US.
“He’s always going to be part of our team, he’s always going to be a big part of our group,” said McManamon. “I’d love to play with him again but by the sounds of things it mightn’t happen this year. But I’d love to play with him again.”
Kevin McManamon was speaking at the launch of the AIG Cups and Shields at the GUI national headquarters. AIG Insurance is offering exclusive discounts to GUI and ILGU members. See aig.ie/golfer or call 1890405405