A little over 12 months ago Paul Mannion watched Dublin win the All-Ireland from Hill 16.

On Saturday, on a floodlight night at Croke Park, the 23-year-old was central to the Boys in Blue retaining Sam Maguire for the first time since 1977.

He wasn’t in the team named by manager Jim Gavin on Friday night, but he started the game in place of the experienced Bernard Brogan and though he didn’t score he drove hard at the Mayo defence.

“I was on the Hill, in the rain!” he smiled recalling last year’s final. “It was great, I loved it - it was my first time on the Hill, really.

“I had been there before (as a player) in 2013 so I know that feeling, what it’s like and the fun the lads are going to have in the weeks after so there was a bit of jealousy, but no regret.

“This year was easier! On the pitch you don’t feel the nerves as much because you’re just focusing on your job; you’re not in the same sort of mood as the people in the crowd. Playing is easier.”

Mannion took 2015 out to facilitate a year abroad as part of his business and Chinese studies in UCD.

He arrived back in Ireland in May, in time for the start of the Championship, though he didn’t make an effort to try to break back into the Dublin panel.

He admits that this was a gamble, given the competition for places in Gavin’s panel, making his second All-Ireland medal all the sweeter.

“There’s a chance that you might not because when you go away there are other lads who will come in and take the places,” he said.

“I still always planned on coming back and trying my best to get back into the team. Jim gave me a chance earlier in the year, I did well in training and he kept me on, but I suppose there’s still always a doubt there when you go away.”

Mannion was substituted after 51 minutes of a hard-hitting and absorbing game of football, making way for Michael Darragh Macauley, who was brought on to shore up the middle of the field.

He says the pace of the game was relentless and that he was expecting extra-time when he saw Mayo sharpshooter Cillian O’Connor stand over a late free into the Hill 16 end.

“The intensity is like something you can’t imagine,” said the Kilmacud Crokes speedster.

“Training can only prepare you so much - when you get out there it’s a completely different feeling, a completely different level. I was out of breath the whole time and it’s extremely difficult.

“It’s an All-Ireland final so we said before we went out that we’d absolutely empty ourselves and the lads were there to come off the bench to finish the job and they did that.

“We said on the line ‘let’s get ready for extra-time’, so we were getting our head around that. Cillian O’Connor is a phenomenal free-taker, but it was a difficult kick.”