Dublin star Kevin McManamon is always learning

Kevin McManamon at yesterday's Topaz Cash for Clubs launch.

Kevin McManamon takes a seat and talks away about adding layers to his game but a canvas as restricted as sport is rarely wide enough to capture the man in his entirety.

Not with a man whose evolution as a footballer with Dublin pales in comparison to his path away from the field, where his hunger for knowledge and innate curiosity in people and life has nurtured an eclectic mix of interests and passions.

But he’s told that story before: how he packed in the fresh food business he’d set up with a friend after college for something more engrossing to add to a love of football and music. That something was psychology, and it peppers the conversation as he talks form and football.

The aim last year was simple: to start.

His dramatic impact off the bench in the 2011 All-Ireland final against Kerry solidified a public persona as a supersub but he started all seven of the county’s games last summer and was a contender for Footballer of the Year before his form dipped in the drawn decider with Mayo.

He spoke again yesterday about he bombed on his debut against Wexford in Croke Park way back in 2010. “I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do.” This dip wasn’t down to the occasion or the expectation but it was to do with the six inches between his ears.

“It was more about how I was preparing my mindset for the final. I expected a different game than I got and when your expectations are a bit off you don’t respond with the same resilience that you usually do. Sometimes when things don’t go the way you expect it can lead to tension.”

He was hardly alone among the Dublin forwards in falling below expected standards last September but McManamon was happy enough with his input second time out and he feels reasonably confident that he won’t fall as flat if he reaches the All-Ireland again with the Dubs.

All he can do is strive for improvement. He talks about perceived areas where he needs to develop without delving into detail lest the odd corner-back pick up a paper but he worked on being less predictable a player in his early days under Pat Gilroy and adding to your skill set is an obvious means of achieving that.

“There’s always ways you can sharpen up, whether it’s your skills... One of the things last year was I wanted to have the best hands I could possibly have and I did a lot of work on my handling. Physically, now, I’m in good shape. I’m at my fighting weight in terms of how well I move and how fit I am.

“That’s step one,” he explained. “And then, I suppose, a lot of it is becoming a bit more of an all-rounder. There were probably areas of my game that defenders might have exploited last year. I think I’m much more of an all-rounder this year.”

His work as a sports psychologist has clearly brought him on, too. There is a self-belief to him now that he says can’t be penetrated by the odd bad performance. Add that to the miles in his legs and he has some useful tools in his box but he doesn’t claim to have all the answers either.

“Under no circumstances do I have it nailed,” he said in Dublin yesterday at the launch of the Topaz Cash for Clubs 2017 campaign.

“I’ve huge, huge interest in psychology and mindset and its impact on performance. And it’s nearly the more I know the more I don’t know.” Which brings us to the Dubs as a collective.

The league final loss to Kerry has injected an element of doubt into the hardening opinion the three-in-a-row could be theirs to lose and McManamon doesn’t dispute the fact the loss of their long unbeaten record will lend heart to future opponents.

The main unknown is the effect it has on Jim Gavin’s players. Have they learned from it? “Well, no-one will really know that until the end of September.

“We can all watch the match and all see we did this wrong and this right but I don’t know. Everyone seems to think they know: ‘ah, Dublin will learn from that’. But I don’t know and that’s the exciting thing for the summer.” Another championship. Another exploration of the mind.

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