Jack Canning keen to carve his own path in race to the top
It can be a blessing or a burden, being the latest off the production line of a hurling dynasty, but Jack Canning has always been one to tread his own path.
Earlier this year the Portumna teenager put a promising rugby career on hold to focus on hurling, though he has a long road to travel before evoking comparisons with his uncle, Joe Canning. Not that he's thinking anything of the sort.
"I have to go out and hurl for myself," he says. "Joe is not going to go out and hurl for me. People ask me a lot about [Joe], but I try not to look into as much."
There is, however, a striking resemblance between the two, as much for their mature perspective as their prodigious attacking prowess.
"Hurling, it's nice to do but it is only a hobby at the end of the day," says Canning, a student at GMIT. "Obviously I would take it serious; it's gone professional even though it's not but there's lots of the family that mightn't have any interest. There are other things to life."
As a result, Canning (below) is unlikely to be fretting about being on the bench for this evening's Bord Gáis Energy Leinster U-21 hurling final against Wexford, but instead working out a way to make an impact if he gets the nod to join the attack.
Galway arrive in Portlaoise on the back of a 3-13 to 1-17 semi-final victory over Kilkenny, which makes them strong favourites to lift the Leinster U-21 title for the first time.
"It's something new to everyone, players and management," said Canning of Galway's place in Leinster. "We're looking forward to it."
Canning was replaced by Cian Salmon in Galway's semi-final success which left him asking questions about his performance.
"I just didn't hurl, I was a bit flat and wasn't up for it. I suppose you'll have that but I'll just pick myself up now and hopefully get going."
For inspiration, he can always think back to last year's All-Ireland minor final, where Canning put a poor first half behind him and helped Galway to victory with 2-2. Seeing his uncle secure the senior title hours later made it all the sweeter.
"It was a great experience and Joe was great to me with support but he tried not to give me too much either. I have to learn for myself. I kind of had to redeem myself after my first-half performance but luckily I got a bit of ball in the second half and did something with it.
Awakening "Winning the minor was great and then getting out on the field with the seniors afterwards just topped it all off."
Canning is in his second season with the Portumna seniors, where he plays alongside uncles Ollie and Joe, and his first with the Galway U-21s. He has trained with the Galway seniors at times this year, but the level required at the top tier proved a rude awakening.
"I was in there a few times, training games and stuff like that and it's a different animal, it's quite tough," he says. "The standard is very high and it's a tough day in there when you go in but I know everyone in there and it's enjoyable.
"Hopefully a bit more experience with the club will stand to me and I might get in there at some stage. It would be nice to play with Joe in a Galway jersey, but we'll take it as it comes."