Séamus Callanan a fitting member of Tipperary’s pantheon of all-time greats

Captaining the Premier County to All-Ireland glory in 2019 was a fitting climax to a long and outstanding intercounty career

For a moment, the world stopped spinning. Séamus Callanan stood over the sliotar, surveying the scene around him. Master of it all. Boyhood dreams playing out in real time. A player could stand in that moment forever.

It might not be one of Callanan’s most iconic scores, but his routine pointed free in the dying embers of the 2019 All-Ireland SHC final must have felt like something from a fantastical Disney movie. A script dreamt up by a school kid.

With 73 minutes and two seconds gone in the decider, Callanan prepares to take a free from just where the D arcs around to meet the 20-metre line.

Hill 16 climbs skyward out ahead, a jubilant swaying sea of blue and gold, interrupted every now and then by a splattering of stony-faced Kilkenny fans, some already searching for the exit.


Tipperary are leading 3-24 to 0-20. Three minutes of added time have been announced. The Cats are already tamed. Callanan is the Tipperary captain. He has scored 1-1 so far, maintaining his record of netting a goal in every Tipp championship match that year. He is in line to be Hurler of the Year. It has been a season of seasons, the summer of his life.

And this is how it ends, with Callanan putting the frosting on the cake. Callanan stands over a devil-may-care free with Tipp’s greatest rivals already consigned to the depths of hurling hell, alive in the knowledge he will shortly be climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand to lift the Liam MacCarthy.

Callanan asks referee James Owens how much time is left. There is none. It’s over once he takes the free. All his sporting dreams are about to shower down around him like confetti dancing in the sky, and he has been granted the privilege of smashing open the piñata with one last flick of his hurl.

It’s just a fleeting moment in an extraordinary 16-year Tipperary career. But to have been Séamus Callanan in that moment must have felt extraordinary.

Callanan, who will turn 35 next week, announced his intercounty retirement on Wednesday morning.

“The highlight of my playing career was undoubtedly captaining Tipperary to All-Ireland success in 2019,” said the three-time All-Ireland winner in his farewell statement.

“Coming back to Tipperary and Drom and Inch with the Liam MacCarthy Cup is something I will treasure forever. I will always be very grateful to Liam Sheedy for entrusting me with the role of captain.”

He is Tipperary’s leading championship goalscorer of all time with 40.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” says Nicky English. “And he went about it all in great style as well. He was a central figure in some of the greatest matches ever played and when we talk about Tipp-Kilkenny during those years, he was one of the key players in those battles.”

Callanan made his senior debut in a league game against Offaly in 2008, coming off the bench to score 0-3. He hit 0-3 on his championship debut as well in a Munster SHC semi-final win over Cork that June. The following month he scored 1-3 as Tipperary beat Clare in the provincial decider.

His maiden season ended with an All Star nomination and he maintained his encouraging form in 2009. However, Callanan’s Tipp career plateaued somewhat thereafter and he didn’t start any match from the quarter-final stage onwards in the Premier County’s 2010 All-Ireland-winning season.

His trajectory changed again though from 2014 when Eamon O’Shea empowered Callanan to become one of hurling’s most lethal full forwards.

“I have been fortunate to meet many great people during my time hurling with Tipperary and through the GAA, but Eamon O’Shea was special amongst them all,” said Callanan.

In the years that followed Callanan stepped out of his own shadow to become one of hurling’s star attractions. He won three consecutive All Stars between 2014-16, delivering perhaps his greatest individual display in the 2016 All-Ireland final when he amassed 0-13, with a staggering 0-9 from play.

“That 2016 All-Ireland final performance, he was really at ease in that match, some of his scores that day were fantastic,” recalls English.

“I know he got Hurler of the Year in 2019, but he probably should have got it in 2016 as well, he should have been Hurler of the Year twice, not many players achieve that but that is the realm he occupies.”

A litany of injuries – including back, knee and hand – curtailed his involvement in recent years, but Callanan was able to feature in five of Tipp’s six championship games in 2023.

His goal against Offaly in June was his 40th in the championship, while Callanan’s last appearance came in the quarter-final loss to Galway later that same month.

Richie Hogan’s wizardry was rightly lauded last week, but Callanan’s place in the pantheon of outstanding forwards should not be underplayed.

His eye for a goal was outrageous, but none of his scoring numbers would have come to pass was it not for the fortitude, determination and belief he displayed in reigniting his career when some wondered if the spark had gone. Turned out, Callanan was only getting started.

In his prime he was unmarkable. His Tipp days were bookended by two hurling behemoths, that the Premier managed to plunder three All-Ireland titles during the age of Kilkenny and Limerick was because of exceptional leaders like Callanan.

“He was a great player and while he suffered a few injuries over the last few years, he always fought hard to get back. His overall contribution was outstanding, really,” says English.

He may or may not have replayed that injury-time point from the 2019 final in his head over the years. It’s not the free, but rather how he felt in the moment, standing in front of Hill 16, where the arc of the D meets the 20-metre line, realising the objective was complete, he had captained his county to Liam MacCarthy.

You don’t buy those moments, you earn them.

“I wish to thank all the Tipperary players I had the pleasure of calling my team-mates since 2008,” he said in his retirement statement. “I have made lifelong friends and feel honoured to have taken to the pitch with some of the greatest hurlers who ever wore the Tipperary jersey.”

History will remember Séamus Callanan as one of those.