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Sam defence starts here

THE celebrations are ongoing but the focus is turning - slowly.

Dublin's footballers are still enjoying the fruits of their All-Ireland glory but as Pat Gilroy and the county board dot the 'I's and cross the 'T's on a new tenure, those who delivered on that day are beginning to contemplate life after Sam.

"Just talking to the lads, a lot of the talk is about what we're going to do next year as opposed to what we've been doing in the last month," Dublin's All-Ireland final hero Kevin McManamon told the Herald.

"The excitement is still out there and there is still a great buzz around the city, but the ambition is there to go and try and do it again."

By his own admission, McManamon has never spent so much time in the company of his team-mates and the process of celebration has had a unifying effect, one which he feels will stand to Dublin when they eventually forget about September 18 and face up to the near impossible task of doing it all again.



Unity

"You could be sitting there chatting to one of the lads or on the phone to them and you're saying 'I can't believe we did it'. There is a unity there that can never be taken away from us.

"But while we're enjoying it for the minute, it will be game-on come January when we're back as a group."

Six o'clock on frosty January mornings in Clontarf isn't the ideal setting for team bonding and the world seems a much better place when Sam Maguire is around.

"You're taken aback," McManamon admits of the last few hectic weeks.

"You knew there were a lot of hardcore fans out there but ... I've been to schools and a couple of work places and there is just a great buzz from people. It hasn't died down yet at all.



Crying

"You still meet people and they tell you 'I didn't make it into work for four days after it'. Or 'I was crying my eyes out like a 12-year-old girl' or whatever. It's a bit of a shock to the system alright."

Heroism sits uneasily with the St Jude's man. He took a holiday to Portugal the week after the final and book-ended the trip by heading to Inis Oírr for a weekend before rejoining the big party.

That heroism has been thrust upon him. And all because of the goal.

The goal that he is supposed to remember for the rest of his life, the strike he has recalled a thousand times in conversation and interviews since it hit the net ... he now admits he doesn't recall at all.

"I can't in my own head picture me scoring that goal. I remember getting the ball and I remember running back out onto the pitch but I don't remember what happened in between."

Partly, that's because at that stage, McManamon was relying on his instincts rather than playing the occasion and for that, he and the rest of the team have management to thank.

In particular, McManamon is effusive in praise for Caroline Currid, the performance coach who was added to Gilroy's backroom team in the nuclear winter of '09.



Capitulation

Currid effectively took the role of sports psychologist within the Dublin camp after the worst capitulation in memory and with a CV boasting previous All-Ireland wins with Tyrone footballers in 2008 and Tipperary hurlers in 2010, her pedigree was clear.

For McManamon, the greatest help he got was in the run-up to the final.

"There was a few rough days the week of the All-Ireland when you just want to get away from it all.

"The Friday before the All-Ireland final, I was probably in 12 shops and four or five houses.

"I took on more work to try and get my mind off it. But sure every person you meet wants to talk to you about the match.

"I was thinking 'if I have to talk about this match again, I'm going to blow up'. So I spoke to Caroline that night and she just said 'shield yourself away from it'. She said: 'These people have to talk about it because it's all that's on their minds. But this isn't what you need. What you need is to get away from it'.

"So I had a day where I was just sitting in my frontroom playing a bit of music with my brother and she told me that was the best thing I could do. Anything but football. But that was only one of 100 things she did for me over the course of the year."

"Even in the final, I wasn't having the best game. But what we're told is that all the thinking you do and dreaming about the match and how it's going to go for you ... all that ends the night before the match.

"When you're on the pitch, it's just about following your instincts and doing it naturally and that's what helped me.

"There were loads of times when I was over-thinking games and I was wrecked tired before the match even started. It's just instinct."



Catapulted

He does, however, remember the final whistle sounding and while the memories of the following six weeks are a muddle of highs and peaks, the reality that he catapulted Dublin to an All-Ireland is slowly dawning.

But with the prospect of management being confirmed for another season within the next two weeks, McManamon is aware that the hard work will begin all over again -- before he knows it.

"They would be very good at stamping out any complacency," he says of Gilroy and Co.

"They would have their eye on the ball with regard to anyone who wasn't putting the effort in. That's hugely important.

"Next year, as the league wears on and the team starts to take shape, that's going to be a huge thing.

"It's essential that the most committed guys on the team are the 15 fellas who are going to be starting," he adds.

"That's what happened this year and look how it worked out."