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There's no 'Ewing Theory' here – Canning was born to stand out


Joe Canning's brilliance in no way guarantees he will finish his career with an All-Ireland medal for Galway. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Joe Canning's brilliance in no way guarantees he will finish his career with an All-Ireland medal for Galway. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Joe Canning's brilliance in no way guarantees he will finish his career with an All-Ireland medal for Galway. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Ever heard of the Ewing Theory? It's a concept that a team can often perform better without its 'star' player. You can thank former NBA star Patrick Ewing for this. The theory started when it seemed that Ewing's teams played better at times without him.

For example, the New York Knicks surprisingly qualified for the NBA finals in 1999 when Ewing was injured.

Apparently, you must have a few elements for the Ewing Theory to swing into effect. The team has to have a star player who gets a lot of attention but never wins. The team then loses its star player, everyone writes the team off, the team goes on to win.

The theory's main cheerleader – ESPN's Bill Simmons – catalogued other examples. When American NFL star Peyton Manning left the Tennessee Volunteers, the following season they won a national title. Despite being without their injured quarterback Trent Green, the St Louis Rams still won the Super Bowl in 1999.

Hold on a second. Has this theory any real foundation? You can't imagine many coaches or fans subscribing to a desire to lose their star player.

For sure, some players – sick of being in the star's shadow – may feel liberated to try and fulfil their own potential. Yes, it might be a relief to not constantly have to cater for the needs of 'The Talent'. So is there a scintilla of truth in this philosophy?

The Ewing Theory plays down the importance of the individual, but how many (countless) times have we seen the individual transcend the collective in team sports?

Imagine if Galway didn't have Joe Canning last Sunday. Who else could have done what he did and – even more so – who else could Galway have depended on to do what he did with that stunning equaliser?

Galway's relationship with Canning in terms of how reliant they are on him fluctuates; mostly, it teeters between the over-dependent and the very dependent.

We get sucked in by the cult of the individual. When two stars are engaged in an endgame like that Leinster SHC semi-final, the duel is promoted to an 'anything-you-can-do-I-can-do better' shoot-out.

The game was distilled down to Henry and Joe. And of course, their taglines. The King. The Prince/The Pretender.

There can be health risks when a team is overly dependent on one player. Look at the FIFA World Cup. It's Ronaldo's Portugal, Messi's Argentina, Neymar's Brazil.


It means there is a single choke point, a single point of attack for the opposition: if you stifle the star, do you stifle the team?

Stars are easy targets. Just after Neymar scored his second goal in Brazil's 4-1 win over Cameroon this week, ITV co-commentator Clarke Carlisle cooed: "You can try and rile the star player, you try and get under his skin, give him a niggle. What's he going to do? Hurt you when it matters."

I'm sure Colm Cooper would have wished for the same kind of commentary every time Tyrone favourite Ryan McMenamin used to mark him.

The fault in our stars? They can have a magnetic effect. On everything. But doesn't the variety of a team's play suffer if it constantly revolves around one player?

Then again, if the play didn't centre around him, you could just imagine Ronaldo sobbing something profound like, "why should I fit in, when I was born to stand out?". Canning was born to stand out. This year, he was promoted to captain of Galway.

But he's got more than just back-up on the team. Conor Cooney is developing into a fine forward and not just a wing-man for Canning.

Like the way he plays for his club Portumna, Canning has moved further outfield. He played at centre-forward against Kilkenny. Always centre stage.

But what about the pressure? When so much is expected of you, do you have an even more intense relationship with victory/defeat? What is it like for a star to feel he constantly has to deliver?

Going into Sunday's game, did Canning have the words of former Kilkenny player Charlie Carter ringing in his ears?

"It's time for Joe to deliver. Make no bones about it, it's time for Joe to stand up and deliver." Other counties have relied heavily on individuals at various stages. Eamonn O'Hara in Sligo, Mayo's Cora Staunton, Declan Browne in Tipperary, Wexford's Mattie Forde to name but a few. But team sport is built for the collective to win.

And Canning's brilliance in no way guarantees he will finish his career with an All-Ireland medal with Galway.

Undoubtedly, Kilkenny will try to shackle Canning in tomorrow's replay. He scored 1-9 in the drawn game in the 2012 All-Ireland SHC final between the two teams. He hit 0-9 in the replay. Any variation of the Ewing Theory that a team could perform better without its star player is just laughable here. Galway need Canning.

If anyone can produce another enthralling performance against Kilkenny, Canning can.


Get Dubs on road and start spreading the love

Dublin play Wexford in Sunday's Leinster SFC semi-final at – where else – Croke Park. Dubs supporters really have it handy, don't they?

A Dublin colleague of mine says he doesn't have to leave his home until an hour before throw-in with plenty of time to settle into his spot on the Hill.

Will the Dublin football team ever play outside of Croker in the championship again? The Dublin hurlers were there a few weeks ago, but imagine if the defending All-Ireland football champions were instead rocking up to Wexford Park on Sunday?

Dublin's last championship excursion outside the city was to Pearse Park in Longford in 2006. Surely many Dubs fans would welcome a road trip.

And wouldn't their opponents salivate at the chance to play them in their own back yard? With local businesses getting a nice bounce too, the GAA should start spreading the love again.


Players have lost touch with sacred art of sideline cut

This is your cue to send in angry letters of complaints; I've an issue to raise from last weekend's Leinster SHC semi-final between Kilkenny and Galway.

I know, we hate it when anyone dares to criticise the untouchable game of hurling.

But the standard of some of the sideline cuts in the game was way below what we usually expect from these players.

You don't need me to underline the art involved in this skill. One experimental rule I liked was the awarding of two points for a point scored from a sideline cut. Of course it didn't stick. Camogie have it in their game, though.

Whatever about scoring a point from it, I'll just take that clean meeting of hurl(ey) and sliotar from the ground. Magic.