McManamon mindset involves respecting the opposition

Psychology behind McManamon’s game has taken him from an ‘imposter’ to a winner

Kevin McManamon at the launch of the Topaz Cash for Clubs in Ringsend, Dublin, on Wednesday. Photograph:  INPHO/James Crombie

Kevin McManamon at the launch of the Topaz Cash for Clubs in Ringsend, Dublin, on Wednesday. Photograph: INPHO/James Crombie

 

The problem with asking Kevin McManamon a simple question about football is that you end up getting a lesson in sports psychology. Not everyone would be comfortable with that, but if the psychology behind his game has taken him from feeling like an “imposter” on the Dublin team to winning four All-Ireland titles it is worth listening to.

Indeed, the player once known as Dublin’s “super-sub” – thanks mainly to his All-Ireland-changing goal in 2011 – started all seven Championship games last summer, including the drawn final and replay win over Mayo.

That was actually a sort of mind game – put the ambition out there, let people know what you want – although it helps that McManamon happens to be in the business of sports psychology. So he is happy to share the lessons to anyone willing to listen, beginning with the question of whether Dublin’s league defeat to Kerry will give their main challengers any sort of psychological advantage.

“Yeah, it probably will,” he says. “We weren’t at our usual standards. Kerry were able to poke holes in our setup, and able to exploit us. And we didn’t perform to our standards either. So a kind of double-sided thing there.

“But no one will really know that until the end of September. So, this is this exiting time. We can all watch the match, all see we did this wrong, this right. 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 have we actually robbed anything from our losses.”

Worrying, perhaps, for their challengers is that the only psychology behind Dublin’s Leinster campaign – which they are widely expected to win – is to play every game as if it’s their last

“Look, we’re driven, so the way we look at it is that we have to respect whoever it is we’re playing against. The only way you can actually show your respect is by giving them everything you have, preparing as well as you can.

“That’s how I look at it – how can I respect the Leinster championship? Well, every game I get out there, every chance I get, just give it everything I have for as long as I can.”

Dublin debut

McManamon completed an MA in applied sports and exercise psychology in 2014, and last year set up his own business in the area. Much of what he preaches he practises on his own game, and readily recalls his Dublin debut against Wexford in 2010, completely unsure of himself and where he was going.

“My debut, yeah, was an absolute disaster. I think we were two points down at half time, and I was whipped. We came back and drew the game [and won in extra-time], but yeah, I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do.

“I’d built myself up for this – all I wanted was a debut instead of wanting to play well on a debut. All I wanted was to have one up on me dad (Maxi McManamon), who had a few league starts with Dublin. I could say ‘I have the Championship now dad, sorry big man.’

“I never had an opinion of myself as the big match winner for Dublin. I had an opinion of myself as some young fella who is spoofing his way through the league. I couldn’t believe [Pat] Gilroy was playing me, I thought he was winding me up.

“You can’t outperform your own self-image, and my self-image was of a shy fella who wants to do his bit for Dublin and he’s star-struck around here. It’s a common thing, this imposter syndrome. It’s like ‘eventually they are going to figure out all the doubt and stuff that is going on in my head’. What I figured out a couple of years later is that everybody has it. But I had made it real, I had actually believed it.

More resilient

“That was the thing that I copped that was holding me back so I just kind of read the books, spoke to the right people and did a lot of trial and error. I’m not where I want to be but I’m a much more resilient guy than that day.”

Building that resilience hasn’t been easy, and McManamon has spoken before about the need to stop being his own worst critic after a game, whether he had started or not, and also to create a better football-life balance.

“Under no circumstances do I have it nailed,” he said, speaking at the launch the Topaz Cash for Clubs in Ringsend. “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.”

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