Sunday 18 March 2018

Vincent Hogan sits down with Joe Canning and talks drinking in the GAA, family and change in Galway hurling

Joe Canning leaves the pitch with the Leinster SHC trophy but can he get his hands on the one he really wants - the Liam MacCarthy Cup. Photo: Sportsfile
Joe Canning leaves the pitch with the Leinster SHC trophy but can he get his hands on the one he really wants - the Liam MacCarthy Cup. Photo: Sportsfile Sportsdesk

The Irish Independent's Vincent Hogan recently sat down with three-time All-Star Joe Canning ahead of Galway's All-Ireland semi-final with Tipperary on Sunday.

It was the pair's first interview together in nine years and they covered a range of topics including the influence of Canning's father Sean, how he he dealt with his father's prostate cancer and his mother Josephine's breast cancer, and why Galway have been able to turn a corner after years of narrow misses and heartbreak.

In a candid and honest interview, Canning discusses the realities faced by modern intercounty players including not trying to be defined by your sport, as well as difficulties faced when trying to balance a social life with being an elite level athlete, which at 6ft 2in and 92kg, Canning most certainly is.

"This is hurling at the end of the day,” said Canning.

“When I said recently that it won’t define me, I had people asking me ‘Why don’t you take it seriously?’ I do take it seriously, but what defines me is how I am seen by my family more than anything else. Like my family don’t look at my medals at home. I don’t even know where the medals are.

“Perspective is lost on so many things in Irish society, it’s crazy!”

Recently, Canning attended a Gavin James concert in The Big Top and was helping his girlfriend bring down drinks from the bar when a fellow punter intercepted him with the caution ‘Jaysus Joe don’t be drinking all those!’

Canning, as it happens, was drinking coffee.

But that’s the perverse groove of a county man’s existence now. Feeling answerable to strangers.

“The balance is wrong,” he says flatly. “Like before the third Lions Test, there were pictures of the players drinking beer. After Ireland beat Italy at the Euros last year, there were pictures of them slugging bottles in the dressing-room. It was accepted.

I’m in Limerick a lot now (where he is a partner in the Camile Thai restaurant) and you’ll see Munster players out after a Pro12 game, having a few beers, nothing major. It’s fine, it’s accepted. But the amateur athlete does that and it’s frowned upon.

“Because of that, the culture in the GAA is for lads to go on the p*ss for a day or two after a big game. And that’s totally wrong for both your body and your mind. They end up sick for nearly a week afterwards because they feel they have to go ballistic.

“I’m not for a second recommending a drink culture, but the balance is so wrong. You’re always kind of on edge now when you’re out. You’re almost paranoid. And that’s wrong too.”

To read the full interview with Hogan and Canning pick up a copy of Saturday's Irish Independent or head to from 12am on Sunday.

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