'I'd be my own biggest critic. I have room for improvement' - Seamus Callanan
Published 30/11/2016 | 02:30
When things are conspiring against you the option of throwing in the towel is always the one closest at hand. But those aspiring to true greatness rarely wilt in the face of adversity, and Seamus Callanan is no different.
Despite minimal impact at minor level as Tipp streaked to All-Ireland success in 2006, Callanan burst onto the senior scene as a prodigious score-getter less than two years later as he collected league and Munster honours.
The following September, two weeks shy of his 21st birthday, a first All-Ireland final start led to three points from play - despite Jackie Tyrrell running through him for a shortcut in the opening exchanges - in a composed display as Tipp just fell short.
And while his contribution was off the bench a year later, the Drom-Inch attacker hit two killer points in the final quarter as Liam Sheedy's side derailed Kilkenny's five-in-a-row bid. The world was at their feet but Premier cheers quickly turned to tears.
Sheedy's swift resignation sent shockwaves across the 'home of hurling' with Declan Ryan filling the hot-seat and Callanan fell out of favour with his role reduced to bit-part player as a regularly unused substitute.
Ryan's two-year term perched him on the brink of inter-county anonymity but when Eamon O'Shea - the coach branded as the attacking messiah behind their 2010 success - took the reins, it rekindled Callanan's flame.
"It's hard when you go from being a starter to an unused sub a lot. It is very difficult but I'd be mentally strong and at that stage you'd choices to make and I made the choice to keep at it and I'd never give up at it," the Premier ace says.
"The easiest thing to do is you'll always find a group that will tell you that you should be playing but you'll find most of the answers in the mirror yourself so you have to re-evaluate what you're doing too and what you can contribute.
"It was great for Eamon to give me that trust and responsibility, that he believed in me. It's like in work or anything, when your boss gives you trust and tells you he believes in you, it gives you confidence. He was massive in my development.
"It's my dream to play for Tipperary and there was nothing going to stand in the way of that so I wasn't going to give up on that. I always had the confidence that the ability was inside me, it was just getting the platform and the people over me to believe that."
With O'Shea empowering him to lead from the front and shoulder the free-taking responsibilities, Callanan has revelled in being the go-to guy in Tipperary's attack as a truly remarkable transformation materialised.
Despite not taking home the gong, he was nominated for Hurler of the Year three years in succession, after tallies of 9-50, 5-20 and 2-47 over the course of 15 championship games with an average of a phenomenal 11 points per game, the 28-year-old has moved into an attacking league of his own.
Thirteen points in an All-Ireland final, nine from play, is almost unheard of but the 28-year-old did just that as Michael Ryan's men blitzed the three-in-a-row-seeking Cats with a masterful team performance.
Hunger is regularly thrown around as the difference between winning and losing and with Liam MacCarthy safely locked up in Tipp for the 27th time, it's assumed that the same level of desire will not be evident in 2017 but Callanan scoffs at such a notion.
"All-Ireland finals are where every player wants to be, when you get your first hurley at two or three years of age, it's the pinnacle of your career and where you want to be and what you want to achieve," the Bank of Ireland finance representative explains.
"When that happens it's a great feeling but after a few days when you come down from the high and look back on it, you don't want to be anywhere else again, you want to feel that every year and we don't have the time to waste.
"The perception in 2010 was that we were going to put a good few All-Ireland titles together and the reality is that it didn't happen so we can't be wasting our years.
"When we have the crop that we have we need to push on and put a few medals together.
"We have goals and we want to be contesting All-Irelands every year but that's not realistic. You have to go back and start at the bottom again, we want to pass out even the achievements of this year.
"What we need to do now is to try and emulate the great Kilkenny teams and be able to put a few back together which is very hard but it's something they've been able to do and we're trying to strive to do that as well."
And after scaling frightening heights in recent seasons, Callanan is showing no sign of dizziness.
"It comes to a stage where you're at a maturity level and an age where you can express them and be comfortable in yourself. I'd always have high expectations of myself and I would've been coming off thinking I could have gotten a few more," he says.
"I'd be my biggest critic so I've a bit of room for improvement. I set targets for myself and I'd love to be able to do even more than that next year."
Defenders be afraid, be very afraid.