Wednesday 28 September 2016

10 magic moments from the magical talent that is Joe Canning

Published 12/08/2016 | 02:30

Joe Canning scores Galway’s first goal in the 2012 All-Ireland hurling final. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Joe Canning scores Galway’s first goal in the 2012 All-Ireland hurling final. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile

When Johnny Coen broke from the throw-in in the second half of the All-Ireland quarter-final between Galway and Clare, he may not have been aware that he was in the process of initiating a milestone in his Joe Canning's career.

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Canning's goal from an angle that very few could hope to squeeze a shot away from was his 25th in championship hurling.

Celebrating after scoring against Cork in 2008. Photo: Ray McManus / Sportsfile
Celebrating after scoring against Cork in 2008. Photo: Ray McManus / Sportsfile

It's still some way short of Nicky Rackard's 59, Tony Doran's 40, DJ Carey's 37, Eddie Keher's 35 or Christy Ring's 33. But in an era where defence is a collaboration and one-to-one contests are diminishing, Canning's statistics still stack up.

He has played just 41 games in his nine years and one goal has been as eye-catching as the next. Sometimes it's easy to forget just how good he is.

He has scored a goal in each of the nine championships in which he has played, grabbing at least one in 21 of his 41 games.

Quality

After raising a green flag in last year’s Leinster final. Photo: Ray McManus / Sportsfile
After raising a green flag in last year’s Leinster final. Photo: Ray McManus / Sportsfile

Perhaps the most striking feature is his record against Kilkenny - eight goals in 10 games, the five from play all of the highest quality in the company of some of the greatest defenders the game has known.

In full flow, he is a formidable sight and though his role against Clare was more expansive, that early second half goal was a timely reminder of the finishing qualities he possesses.

"When Joe Canning gets the ball near the opposition posts you always feel 'we have a chance of a goal here'," said former Galway manager John McIntyre. "If it's some other player, you're thinking, 'we'll get a point.'

"Joe had a great partnership with Damien Hayes and I think there was a natural telepathy that came from playing with Portumna. Hayes was a great man to lay off a ball at the right time.

"Joe has a bullet-like shot - he's a very hard man to stop. He's one of the great finishers hurling has ever seen."

Looking back at some of those goals the early impact of Canning on hurling was almost 'Tysonesque' for the power and dynamism he brought and the reputations he, temporarily or otherwise, buckled.

Often his goal impact has come early in games, against Cork in that memorable 2008 qualifier, against Kilkenny in Tullamore a year later, in the early minutes of the Leinster and All-Ireland finals against Kilkenny in 2012.

1. 2015 Leinster final

Croke Park

Kilkenny 1-25, Galway 2-15

One of the classiest executions ever seen on a hurling field. To be able to catch, swivel on to his blind side and strike as he did in the 33rd minute as two Kilkenny defenders closed in was a joy to behold. For movement, balance and awareness it has to rank right up there with any other goal scored. It reduced a five-point gap to two but Kilkenny still won easily.

2. 2008 All-Ireland 4th rd qualifier

Semple Stadium

Cork 0-23, Galway 2-15

This goal must be rated in the context of when it was scored. When Galway met Cork in a fourth-round qualifier on a Saturday evening in Thurles in mid-July he was only 19 years old and had just two championship games with Galway under his belt, against Antrim and Laois.

So this was his first taste of real cutting edge action. Cork had opened with the game's first four points. Four minutes in he illustrated how easily he could take to it in the most graphic manner possible.

Fielding over Rebel full-back Diarmuid O'Sullivan was one thing but being able to hold him off and have the power to drive one-handed past Donal Og Cusack was some way to announce your arrival at this level. Cusack was later sent off for a second yellow card but Galway still lost.

3. 2009 Leinster semi-final

Croke Pk

Kilkenny 2-20, Galway 3-13

More context here because this was Canning's first championship engagement with the greatest team of all and he was facing arguably the greatest defender of all, JJ Delaney. He had already clipped over Galway's opening points when he swept up possession, turned and pinned his ears back with a barnstorming run towards the Kilkenny goal. Delaney gave chase but Canning's run was too strong and the angle with which set himself to despatch off his left past PJ Ryan left his pursuers helpless. He scored 2-9 from Galway's 3-13 but again they lost.

4. 2012 All-Ireland final

Croke Pk

Kilkenny 0-19, Galway 2-13

From the moment James Regan played him in, Canning only had one thing on his mind as he weaved through the traffic, taking out five defenders, to ram home off his left and establish a three-point lead that set the tone for the rest of the half.

5. 2012 Leinster final

Croke Pk

Galway 2-21 Kilkenny 2-11

Another early goal that set a tone, this time for Galway's only Leinster final success, as he climbed highest to fetch Iarla Tannian's delivery and leave Jackie Tyrrell trailing in his wake to smash off his left after only two minutes.

6. 2011 Qualifier

Pearse Stadium

Galway 4-25, Clare 0-20

Stung by the fierce criticism that came with their defeat to Dublin in the Leinster semi-final this was quite the response from Galway and Canning led the charge with this goal to open a 10-point lead as he first bustled Nicky O'Connell out of the way along the end-line before stepping inside Pat Donellan and rifling home off his left.

7. 2011 Leinster semi-final

Tullamore

Dublin 0-19, Galway 2-7

Another poor day for Galway but this early goal was the perfect tonic as Canning beat Tomas Brady over on the stand side (Brady suffered a cruciate ligament as he fell) and cut in for goal, smashing a blistering shot to the roof of the net.

8. 2016 All-Ireland quarter-final

Thurles

Galway 2-17, Clare 0-17

A great build-up from the second-half restart involving Johnny Coen and David Burke. When Canning got possession the angle was acute but the shot was ferocious.

9. 2015 Leinster quarter-final replay

Tullamore

Galway 5-19, Dublin 1-18

Two cracking goals from Canning as Dublin were hit for five; the first saw him run into space to gather possession, round Peadar Carton on his outside and bat over the advancing Alan Nolan to add a different skill-set to a burgeoning catalogue great goals.

10. 2010 Leinster semi-final replay

Portlaoise

Galway 3-17, Offaly 2-18

In one seamless movement Canning was able to run on to a loose ball after Damien Hayes had applied sufficient pressure to lift and strike past James Dempsey. Once again it was the power of the shot that stood out but Canning had made the whole package look much easier than it was.

Irish Independent

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