Sunday 26 February 2017

Commins praises stability of last man standing Callanan

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Current Galway No 1 Colm Callanan
Current Galway No 1 Colm Callanan

Galway's last All-Star goalkeeper John Commins has welcomed the stability that Colm Callanan is now bringing to the position.

Commins, the All-Star goalkeeper in 1988 and '89, felt the No 1 jersey has changed much too often over the last two-and-a-half decades to allow anyone to settle properly.

"When I left in 1991 Richie Burke was in and then Richie broke his leg. I was asked back, didn't go back. Then someone else came in," he recalled.

"In the period of 15 years that followed you had definitely nine or 10 goalkeepers. And no fault to the guys in charge or to the goalkeepers but it is a very important position," stressed Commins.

"You look at Brendan Cummins, Damien Fitzhenry, Dónal óg Cusack ... they were all there for a good quality of time. Your backs and goalkeeper work as a unit.

"Colm has done really, really well. He has a great puck-out, he's a great shot-stopper. He is a very cool customer. Nothing seems to bother him. Definitely he will give the backs great confidence.

"His distribution is class," Commins continued. "He can alter it, hit it high, hit it flat. His agility and flexibility is also class. The save he made from Lar Corbett was probably the winning save of the match. If that went in at that stage, the game was over.

"He was down, next thing Lar doubled on it on a half-volley. It was going to the top right-hand corner. Colm got a strong hand on it. Brilliant save. To me, he is by far the best 'keeper in the country at the moment," acknowledged Commins.

"Every goalkeeper has to have a good understanding with his backs. His confidence is growing and growing. He's a big influence on the team."

Commins, a Galway minor selector in Sunday's All-Ireland final against Tipperary, admits Galway could have imploded had they not won that '87 final over Kilkenny, having lost the two previous finals to Offaly and Cork.

"It was a do-or-die effort in '87. Even though we were young, a lot of us only after coming out of u-21, the experience of being in two losing dressing rooms one after the other was quite sickening.

"I remember one day in Athenry sitting with [Cyril] Farrell, in the corner, a crowd of us and we said, 'We do not want to be in this situation again - sitting on a bus, taking five hours to come home, with our tail between our legs'."

Commins has seen such a shift in preparation that he doubts whether his standard of fitness as a player then would even get him through a warm-up now.

"I see them getting more complicated by the week. You'd see lads going full throttle. Often I would speak to Pete Finnerty and I would say, imagine if we had to do that? Twenty minutes of warming up. You wouldn't get your first wind, never mind your second."

Commins is backing Cathal Mannion and Jason Flynn to continue their fine form and burden-sharing with Joe Canning.

"There was an awful lot of pressure put on Joe down the years. He's a remarkable hurler. He deserves an All-Ireland," said Commins.

Permanent

"These lads have played in All-Ireland finals before, albeit at minor level. The training is up to the highest level, I don't think the occasion will get to them at all. Once the ball is thrown in and a guy can win the first ball, he's in the action."

He's also delighted to see his Gort clubmate Aidan Harte nail down a permanent place on the team this year.

"He's getting more game time. Before, he was looking over his shoulder," recalled Commins.

"Now he knows that jersey is on his back and it's his position.

"He's not guaranteed it but when you get a run of four or five games and you play pretty well, you've far more confidence. You're not looking to the line if you miss the first few balls."

Commins was involved in last year's Galway minor management too when Conor Whelan was involved and knows the talent he possesses.

"Conor was with us (minors) for the last two years. It's great to see him make his senior debut.

"You see the stuff that guy does in club games and he is a serious talent. I would have him up there with some great hurlers in time but he is a kid. He is 19 years old. I don't think the final will faze him. I think it is made for him."

Commins describes it as a "huge opportunity" for this Galway team.

"People are saying Kilkenny are unbeatable - there is no team unbeatable. At some stage they will have to get beaten. Hopefully it will be this year.

"I would give Galway a huge chance. We have forwards that would bother any backs in the country."

Irish Independent

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