Fit-again Canty aiming for cameo role in Clare clash
ABSENCE certainly makes the heart grow fonder. Just ask Graham Canty.
On the outside looking in for Cork's entire National League campaign, the Rebels' heartbeat cut a frustrated looking figure on the sidelines, troubled by a nagging hamstring injury.
But now Canty is back and he is ready to play some part for the reigning All-Ireland champions in Sunday's Munster Senior Football Championship opener at home to Clare at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
Understandably ring-rusty following his prolonged spell away from inter-county football -- his last competitive game at this level was as a second-half substitute against Down in last September's All-Ireland final -- the 30-year-old is eager to get back into the swing of things as quickly as possible.
The role of spectator certainly didn't sit well with the Bantry Blues clubman.
"It was frustrating enough watching the lads. You'd get away with watching maybe one or two games but you get sick of it after a while, watching maybe five, six or seven league games," Canty said.
"The lads seemed to be doing alright without me but at least I am back playing a few games, which is good."
Buoyed by a recent Cork intermediate game against Newmarket, as well as featuring in a challenge game for Cork against Laois, Canty's challenge now is all about getting that invaluable match fitness.
"I got through the club games fine. There were just a few cobwebs. The injury is grand and that's the main thing. I am just lacking an awful lot of match practice. That will come with time," Canty said.
But while the All-Ireland-winning captain didn't kick a ball in anger during the league, it didn't prevent Cork from claiming back-to-back league titles, to go with their All-Ireland crown.
Canty believes that the strength of Conor Counihan's panel helped them edge out Dublin in the league decider.
"The panel is very strong," said Canty, who is likely to feature at some stage against Clare on Sunday.
"Division 1 is a tough division and we did reasonably okay during the league. We were maybe a bit fortunate to make the league final but I think throughout the league we were fairly consistent, and we managed to scrape into the league final. Luckily enough, we won by a point at the end of the day."
Admitting that the injured Colm O'Neill is a "huge loss", Canty is taking scant notice of the predictions for Sunday's provincial opener against the Banner County, as pundits and bookmakers alike are expecting a comfortable Cork victory.
"The only way we are looking at this is that it is a Munster championship game. Whoever we are playing, we prepare the same. We get our heads right and we get our bodies right. We will turn up on Sunday and give it our best," Canty said.
"Clare are a good championship side. They performed well in the league this year and we are expecting a tough test on Sunday."
Meanwhile, Cork manager Counihan has set his sights on wrestling the provincial senior football title back from neighbours Kerry, as he is plotting success through the front door of the competition for the reigning All-Ireland champions.
"We have always wanted to go the shortest route," the Cork manager said. "We will take it one step at a time but if things go according to plan then that's the way we want to go.
"It takes an exceptionally good team and it takes an awful lot of focus, determination and hunger (to win back-to-back All-Irelands). Our first test on that will be this Sunday to see how we deliver in those departments."