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I don’t feel any real pressure following in my father’s footsteps, says rising Tyrone star Ruairí Canavan


Tyrone U-20 captain Ruairí Canavan at the launch of the 2023 EirGrid U-20 All-Ireland football championship. Photo: Sportsfile

Tyrone U-20 captain Ruairí Canavan at the launch of the 2023 EirGrid U-20 All-Ireland football championship. Photo: Sportsfile

Tyrone U-20 captain Ruairí Canavan at the launch of the 2023 EirGrid U-20 All-Ireland football championship. Photo: Sportsfile

Heavy lies the crown? Not really, according to Tyrone star in the making Ruairí Canavan. Carrying a famous name is only a yoke around your neck if you let it be.

Instead, he’s busy forging his own career, ticking off small personal milestones. For example, coming on against Kerry in the league, where he kicked two late, vital frees, was the first time he had featured for the Tyrone seniors in a game they won.

Still, there’s no getting away from who is father is. Being the son of ‘Peter The Great’ has always brought instant recognition and extra attention. It’s all a little surreal for Ruairí, and his brother Darragh who is also on the Tyrone panel and is four years his senior as their father’s peak years came well before their time.

“As you got older,” Ruairí explains, when asked when he became aware of his father’s lofty standing in the game. “But I never seen him play. I wasn’t born for the All-Ireland in 2003 so I’ve no memory of anything like that. Just videos would be the height of it.

“(It’s) not too bad, pressure wise. It comes with it. You just have to take it – it is what it is. I don’t feel any real pressure. I know there would be ones looking out to see you going well and some would like to see you doing poorly.

“He wouldn’t come at you with advice or criticism, he would very much let you find your own feet. If you had something to ask or he felt something that needed to be put back on track, he would do that. But he doesn’t overly burden us or anything.”

The esteem Ruairí is held in in Tyrone is clear. He starred in last year’s EirGrid All-Ireland U-20-winning run and is eligible for the grade again this year. That he was handed free-taking duties when introduced against Kerry with the game still in the balance speaks volumes about his standing within the dressing-room. Darragh was in the frame to hit those deadballs but stood aside due to cramp. And the younger Canavan rewarded that faith and landed a pair of frees that breathed new life into Tyrone’s survival bid.

And they’ve been whispering about his potential within Tyrone for some time, then perhaps he came into the broader consciousness late last year with his beautiful dummy solo and point for Errigal Ciarán in their Ulster club championship clash with Glen. The moment went viral and was picked up by sports sites across the globe. For Canavan, it meant little.

“Friends would send you a message saying, ‘Look at this’ but at the end of the day we were still gutted. We didn’t get over the line. We went into that game hoping we’d win and we were confident that we could but Glen were better on the day and a step ahead of us so it was still gutting.”

The train has kept rolling. As he did last year, he’ll mix U-20 duty with senior. This weekend, he’ll tog for Tyrone as they travel to Monaghan before they host Armagh for a pair of games that will decide their Division 1 fate.

Afterwards, the plan is to focus on the U-20s and the defence of their All-Ireland title.

“It (the win over Kerry) was great because we had been working hard in training but the results hadn’t been coming our way the past couple of games. To get over the line against Kerry was a massive one, but it won’t mean much if we don’t back it up in the next two games and stay in Division 1.

“The ambition would be to do well with the U-20s first. If I get the chance to get a bit of game-time with the seniors, I’d like to make an impact with that, get as far as we can and get a bounce-back from last season.

“Even the training with the seniors, it’s really enjoyable. You learn something every night.”

A little bit done, plenty more to come.

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