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11 Things We Learnt From The Joe Canning Laochra Gael

11 Things We Learnt From The Joe Canning Laochra Gael
PJ Browne
By PJ Browne
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A new season of TG4's Laochra Gael series started on Thursday with Galway hurling legend Joe Canning the first subject.

These are some of the things that we learnt about Canning from the episode.

The 2006 Galway final vs Loughrea made Canning 'steelier'

Portumna lost the 2006 Galway SHC final by a point to Loughrea. Still just a teenager, Canning was already one of his side's star players, and a marked man by the opposition.

"That county final, I got walked on my face," Canning said.

"You look back on it now and go, 'Jeez, did that actually happen? Did he walk down my face?' Yeah, it did. The pictures are there to see.

"But you just get on with it. You dust yourself off, get back out there, and go again. I probably got mentally steelier. I didn't take shit any more from a lot of guys whereas when I was younger, I let guys kind of walk all over me."

joe canning laochra gael galway hurling

22 October 2006; Portumna's Joe Canning lies streched on the ground from a tackle as a Loughrea player steps on him. Galway Senior Hurling Championship Final, Portumna v Loughrea, Pearse Stadium, Galway. Picture credit: Ray Ryan / SPORTSFILE

He felt pressure about joining the Galway seniors

"The start of [2007], I said in the paper that I wouldn't be going in with the seniors this year, no matter what," he said.

"All my friends were going on J1s, and going on holidays. I did a good bit of that. I enjoyed that. I still came back for the U21s.


"I had a lot done in the few years. Maybe I was feeling a small bit of pressure, that I just didn't want this extra pressure to be on a 17 or 18-year-old going in with the Galway seniors. I was still doing a lot. The only thing I wasn't doing was for one year hurling with the Galway seniors."

Scoring 2-12 vs Cork in 2008 was 'the worst thing' he did

Canning made his Galway senior debut in 2008. The Tribesmen lost to Cork in an All-Ireland qualifier that year, with Canning scoring 2-12 of his side's 2-15 total.


"That Cork game with the 2-12 was the worst thing I ever done for myself," he said.

"It raised expectations from other people to an unrealistic level for me to try and set every day I went out. People thought I could do that the whole time, which is mad. For me personally, it's probably the worst thing I ever done."

'If I miss this, I'm going to be ridiculed'

2012 saw Galway reach their first All-Ireland hurling final in seven years. Kilkenny, who they had defeated in that year's Leinster final, were their opponents. The game finished as a draw, the first in a hurling final since 1959.


Canning hit the equaliser from a free in the drawn game amid thoughts about what would be said if he missed.

joe canning laochra gael galway hurling

9 September 2012; Joe Canning, Galway, lines up his last minute free, which he scored to level the game. GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final, Kilkenny v Galway, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

"I remember Davy Glennon winning the free, handing me the ball and going 'Best of luck'. I was like, 'Sound'. I could see out of the corner of my eyes that he was down on his hunkers, praying almost," said Canning.

"That's a pressure moment. 82,000 people looking at you for the last puck of the game. It's strange the emotions that run through your head in those minutes.

"It's not even about drawing the All-Ireland. In one strange way, it was 'If I miss this, I'm going to be ridiculed'.


"It's fine margins between how people perceive you. If I'd missed that I would have been feeling embarrassed, letting down people, [wondering] what would my parents think, what would my family think, and what would people be saying to them."

Being blamed for defeat to Kilkenny

Canning believes some teammates blamed him for Galway's defeat to Kilkenny in the 2012 All-Ireland final replay due to an interview which he had given in the fortnight prior to the match.

"I made a remark - a stupid enough remark - about Henry [Shefflin] not being sportsmanlike," Canning said.

"In my next sentence, I said, 'but we need to be more like them'.

"Whatever way you want to look at it, I was actually complimenting them in a way that we needed to be like Henry and Kilkenny if we were to win the next day.

"I remember waking up the following morning and my phone was going mad. I was going, 'What the fuck is happening here? What did I say yesterday?'

"I remember the second day that I hit the butt of the post with a shot. It rebounded out and they went down and went four up, got a goal. It was the width of the post from being two up to being four down, and the game was over.

"Because we lost, I did feel that a couple of guys blamed me for the loss, and that's fair enough. I definitely felt that."


Kilkenny great Michael Rice said during the show that some players did use the interview as motivation.

Earlier this week, Canning said the furore caused by that interview led to him distrusting the media.

Hate mail to the Canning house

Following the publication of that interview, Canning received a letter from a Kilkenny supporter.

"Mam and Dad got a letter from Kilkenny that they burnt, and never showed me, which is worse for me, I'd rather me see it and not them," said Canning.

His father Seán added: "We usually wouldn't open Joe's letters but the size of this, we knew it was not good. We burnt it before Joe saw it. We knew it would hurt him. That's what parents have to do. It warmed the house for a while. It was as good as a sod of turf."

He didn't always love the attention

"As he got older, there was always that bit more attention around him, and I'd know that living with him," said Canning's former Galway teammate David Burke.

"Even the simple thing of going for breakfast on a Saturday morning or going for a few drinks after a match, he might not have done it just because there would be somebody wanting to get a picture.

Canning adds: "I understood that people recognised me on the streets, or in a pub. I was conscious of that. At times, it wasn't a nice thing, having to be nice the whole time, which is a strange thing to say - it's a privilege that people know you, and want to talk to you, ask you questions and get a photo. That's great.

"Sometimes, you could be having a shitty day like the rest of the people, and maybe it's not the right time, but you try to oblige as many people as you can because that'st he way I was brought up, and Mam and Dad would want me to be that way."

2014 and 2015 were 'difficult'

"The more years we didn't win [the All-Ireland], the more pressure that came on," Canning said.

"The worst couple of years were probably around '14, '15. I found those difficult years, and there were questions being asked the whole time about why we weren't winning. Usually, it was falling back a lot on me."

joe canning laochra gael galway hurling

6 September 2015; A dejected Joe Canning, Galway, after the game. GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final, Kilkenny v Galway, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

He regrets the heave against Anthony Cunningham

Though Galway reached the 2015 All-Ireland final, Anthony Cunningham - who had been manager since late 2011 and was ratified for the 2016 season - was ousted as manager due to player pressure.

"With Anthony, everybody knows that the players had a vote, and there were players represented to go and talk to him as well - I was part of that," said Canning.

"I felt, and three or four of the other guys felt, that we should have been looking at ourselves, and not the management.

"I actually backed Anthony to stay.

"Because he had done so much for us, it wasn’t the right thing to do. It just got messy after that.

"It still drags on, the narrative: ‘Never win an All-Ireland. Never win an All-Ireland.’"

During a video call this week, Canning revealed that he has a good relationship with Cunningham.

"I don't know his relationship with everyone else, but he comes into my bar in Athlone for a few pints every now and again. I do see him a good bit. I'd chat with Anthony whenever I see him, and that's no problem," he said.

He used negative press to motivate him

In 2017, the year Canning and Galway finally won the All-Ireland, they lost to Wexford in the second round of the league. Canning still recalls one of the match reports.

joe canning laochra gael galway hurling

3 September 2017; Joe Canning of Galway celebrates with his nephew Jack, who played in the minor game, following the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Galway and Waterford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"[The journalist] wrote that basically we were no good after that Wexford game, that we'd bottled it again," Canning said.

"The intention of reading the articles that were bad... I never really, I didn’t really read too much that was good because there were always people questioning me, I found a lot. Anything Ger Loughnane said, that [Wexford report] article, I always used them for a chip on me shoulder to say basically, ‘I’ll show you one day’.

"People looking at this now will say, ‘Jeez, that’s not the right way to go about it. Psychologists will look at it and go, ‘No. Never do that.’ And that’s fair enough but that’s what worked for me."

Players were worried about not winning an All-Ireland with Canning

2017 All-Ireland winning captain, David Burke, revealed he and other teammates were desperate to help Canning win a Liam MacCarthy title.

"Thinking about him personally," Burke said, "if he retired having not won the All-Ireland, there was a part of me and the group [that thought], 'You'd love to help him win one'. It would've been an awful travesty to [have people] be saying, 'Oh, they had no one there to help him win one'."

Quiz: Name Every Current Inter-County GAA Manager



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