Friday 23 August 2019

Tipp scapegoat-turned-fan favourite has got the ultimate goal in his sights

Seamus Callanan celebrates with Liam Sheedy after Tipperary’s All-Ireland final victory against Kilkenny in 2010. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Seamus Callanan celebrates with Liam Sheedy after Tipperary’s All-Ireland final victory against Kilkenny in 2010. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Seamus Callanan - Tipperary captain. It's not a sequence of words that would always have landed softly in the ears of the Premier faithful.

The breadth of his talent was never in dispute but his career has been a series of peaks and valleys, with trust in his capacity to deliver not always as strong as it is now.

A blistering start to his career between 2008 and 2009, when he scored 5-18, was followed by dips that saw him hauled off at half-time in the 2011 All-Ireland final against Kilkenny, barely feature in the 2012 championship and lose his place again for that epic All-Ireland qualifier against Kilkenny in Nowlan Park a year later.

When Tipperary supporters sought a fall guy in those challenging years for the county Callanan was, quite often, the first port of call. But since 2014 the peaks have soared higher and the valleys have been shallower and shorter.

Last year, the impediment of early-season back surgery was perhaps a factor in him drawing his first goal blank since 2013.

But this year his career has powered on again, with his goal-per-game ratio, seven in all, already making him Tipperary's greatest ever goalscorer and taking him past Henry Shefflin in contribution from play.

A goal on Sunday would take him level on 35 with Kilkenny's Eddie Keher, joint second highest ever goalscorer behind Nicky Rackard, whose 59 goals remains one of the most remarkable championship feats of all time.

Callanan insists he had none of these targets in sight when he set off on this year's championship journey.

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"I had heard the conversation. I hear the conversation at the moment. But at the end of the day, it's about contributing best to a Tipperary result. Whoever gets the goals, it doesn't matter. I've been fortunate to get a good few of them, and that's great, but a Tipperary win is all that matters," he said with modesty.

"People mention it to me, I don't really realise it. If you get the opportunity as a forward you just want to make the most of it. Some days it will go in and some days you could hit five of them and they will go anywhere else bar the goals. You need a bit of luck every day you go out," he said.

Yet some of the goals - Cork in the opening round, Limerick in the Munster final and Wexford the last day - he has scored have required that extra few steps, that ruthless streak, that ambition that only the great predators have. Luck doesn't come into it.

Goals

"We're not told any day you go out that goals are the only option. You have to play it as you see it. You can't prepare for any of these things. You can go out and train and practice scoring goals, scoring points, but a game takes a life of its own.

"You see the U-20s, they banged in eight goals (against Wexford in the All-Ireland semi-final). But there had to be somebody taking on the man or doing the hard work to put someone else in the position to score them. I don't think it's a culture that has come in. Just if the goal is on, it's a natural thing for the forward to go for it."

It was quite the statement from Sheedy - who dropped Callanan in the last year (2010) of his initial spell as manager - to appoint the Drom & Inch man as captain on his return, recognising the maturity and transformation in his game.

It's a position he has been completely at ease with, recognising the leadership values of so many others within the team.

"When Liam came back in and gave me a call to be the captain of the team, it's such a hugely proud time for your club and your family as well," he said.

"But I'm very lucky because we had a lot of really good leaders that came in from winning an U-21 and then, of course, we have a core group of guys there, the likes of Brendan (Maher), the likes of Padraic (Maher) guys who have captained Tipperary before already.

"So we had that there already and so there's no weight on anyone's shoulders, there's no-one carrying an extra burden to have to be this kind of a leader or that."

The desire to win a third All-Ireland medal this decade is the strong motivating factor, but Callanan is aware that there are players in the squad who don't have one.

"A third would be unbelievable, but for a lot of people it's their first All-Ireland. So it's not that it's our group's third one that we want to win, we want to just win another one. It's not about individual tallies or anything like that."

Irish Independent

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