Sport Hurling

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Full-forward the place for Canning

Damien Hayes tells Liam Kelly that Galway ace is best playing on edge of the square with licence to roam

Joe Canning
Joe Canning
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

GALWAY All Star Damien Hayes stands firm on the great debate as to where the Tribesmen should position Joe Canning for maximum effectiveness.

Hayes, a clubmate of Canning's with Portumna, was unequivocal in his reply to a question about the Canning conundrum.

"You asked me a straight question and I'll answer it: full-forward. He's been a hugely important target man for us at club level."

That said, Hayes appreciates the challenges posed for Galway manager Anthony Cunningham and his selectors in trying to make sure Canning gets the opportunity to inflict maximum damage on the opposition.

If they play him further out from the goal area, the hope is that Canning will escape from tight marking and find the space to display his wonderful talent.

"Joe needs a little bit of a roaming role as well," said Hayes. "I can also see the logic behind that. They don't just want to plant him on the edge of the square.

"Even me as a corner-forward, or playing inside, if the ball isn't coming in, you can get frustrated or annoyed.

"A good hurler like Joe could be on the edge of the box and mightn't have touched the ball in eight or nine minutes, so they want him playing in and out; keep him in the game, keep him active and keep getting him on the ball.

"I can see the logic, but I'd play him full-forward. That's where we play him for the club."

Reflections on 2012 bring up mixed feelings for Hayes.

A historic first Leinster championship win by Galway, defeating Kilkenny in the final, was tempered by the agony of coming so close to killing off the Cats in the All-Ireland decider, followed by their replay defeat.

It is a discussion that the lively forward has passed many an hour with customers at the family Volkswagen garage in Portumna.

As a frontman in the business, there is no hiding place for Hayes (right), although he won't entertain what he calls "stupid hurling conversations."

He added: "I thought we played very well against Cork as well in the semi-final.

"Then we went into the All-Ireland and we gave away a few frees just before half-time and we missed four point opportunities just after half-time to push on.

"It was a big regret, absolutely, and people will remind you about it.

"That's effectively where the game was won and lost – in the three or four minutes before half-time and the six or seven minutes after half-time.

"All you can do is rectify the negatives and build on the positives and Anthony (Cunningham) would be very good at that sort of stuff. We're looking forward now to playing Laois," he said.

Prior to last weekend, all pundits and virtually all the sporting public would be unequivocal in tipping Galway for a comfortable win.

Their most recent championship clash was in the 2009 Leinster quarter-final when the Tribesmen hit 5-22 past Laois.

Perhaps the midlanders will be inspired by the showings of underdogs Limerick, Wexford and Offaly last weekend, but Hayes is adamant that Galway have never taken the view that this is a handy passage to another Leinster final.

"The only team that has been mentioned on our training ground by Anthony is Laois and we'll be showing the utmost respect for them in Portlaoise. We're taking the game extremely seriously.

"They are proud hurling people as well. They've got a very proud Laois man over them that has brought a bit of pride and a bit of belief back, and they've Ger Cunningham training them.

"There's a potential banana skin there and if we're looking at any other matches beyond them, that's where you get caught," he said.

Hayes is happy with the build-up, and expects the ankle knock he incurred against Cork in a challenge game last week to be fully cleared up in time for Sunday.

Three challenges – Clare, Dublin, and Cork – and a series of Galway club matches have the players primed for action.

"Since we got knocked out by Kilkenny in the league, we've all those club games played; we've all the training sessions done and we have our few challenge matches played.

"It's not a case where we're just at the training pitch constantly wondering who we're playing or what's next or whatever. Preparation has gone well. There are no excuses," said Hayes.

Irish Independent

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