Sunday 22 July 2018

Joe Canning says finally getting his hands on Liam MacCarthy 'hasn't changed a whole pile'

Joe Canning winner of the Irish Independent Magic Sports Moment 2017 award pictured at the star-studded 29th Irish Independent Sportstar Awards hosted in Croke Park Stadium in association with The Croke Park Hotel. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Joe Canning winner of the Irish Independent Magic Sports Moment 2017 award pictured at the star-studded 29th Irish Independent Sportstar Awards hosted in Croke Park Stadium in association with The Croke Park Hotel. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

Hurler of the Year Joe Canning is already turning his attention towards 2018 and the pursuit of back-to-back All-Irelands, something Galway haven't achieved since 1988.

After ending the Tribesmen's 29-year wait for September success and finally putting an end to the questions about being 'the best hurler never to win an All-Ireland', you could forgive the Portumna man for reflecting on what has transpired.

The hype and levels of celebration in Galway has been massive but Canning has kept his feet on the ground and his sight set firmly towards the future.

"It's been pretty hectic going here, there and everywhere. It doesn't change a whole pile," he told Independent.ie ahead of the Irish Independent Sportstar Awards.

"We still have next year to play for. You grow up as a kid wanting to play as many matches and as many big occasions as possible so that's not gonna change just because we've won an All-Ireland.

"When you go training in January, you're not aiming to win because of last year.

"That's why we play the game, that why we love it.

"Nothing has changed but we have a target on our back next year compared to years past."

When the final whistle went on the first Sunday in September, it was a case of relief rather than jubilation for Joe.

"It was relief, it was like a pressure valve being released. For years there was a lot of expectation on us because we had never got over the line. I think all of Galway and the west of Ireland was like 'Thank God'," he added.

"Relief is the best word to describe it."

Canning picked up the award for the Moment of the Year after his miraculous injury-time that dethroned Tipp came out on top in an online poll.

He believes that Johnny Coen's coolness and clarity in the Croke Park cauldron to lay the sliotar back to him for the score illustrated how it seemed that Galway's triumph was somehow written in the stars.

"When you are in those situations you don't get time to dwell over it. It was one of those thing where I just got and hit it and you hope for the best. Sometimes they don't go over. I was just really lucky it did, 20 seconds later Bubbles had the same kind of shot out in the sideline, maybe it was a bit more difficult, and didn't get it. It's very fine margins.

"It's weird. I don't know why Johnny would turn around in that situation. You can't hear each other five yards away out there. The place is packed. I don't know why he did, but thankfully he did, but that just adds to the whole thing that maybe it was meant to be."

Change is on the way in 2018, the introduction of the new round-robin system in Munster brings more games and the return of Championship hurling to the city of the tribes.

Micheál Donoghue's side will host Kilkenny and Dublin at Pearse Stadium next summer.

Canning sees the development as crucial in growing the game in the west and is pleased that Galway fans living in remote locations won't have as far to travel to see their heroes go to battle.

"It's going to be nice and especially for the promotion of hurling in Galway.

"Some of our best supporters are from the Connemara side of Galway and that's three hours to Dublin to watch us play. They might have an hour in now which will be a little bit easier for them.

"It'll be great for that side of things.

"It will be great to get it in the city and market it as much as we can and get kids playing.

"(Liam Mellows) had a great win, the first in the long time. It's picking up a little bit. When you are competing with Galway United and Connacht rugby it's always going to be difficult to compete with professional sports so if we can get kids involved in any way possible that's all the better.

"You have league matches but you might only have three of four thousand for them and we'd be hoping for 12,000 at least for the Championship games if not more.

"Hopefully we can get a good buzz around the place."

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