Callanan aiming to set fresh records with Tipperary
Premier County captain setting his sights on a first national league title since 2008
Séamus Callanan: “The Allianz league will be very important in our preparations. It’s like anything else, you get that jersey the first day out and you try and hold on to it for the rest of the year.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
For all the records achieved and the accolades heaped on Séamus Callanan last year it doesn’t take him long to start looking toward fresh ones.
The 2019 hurler of the year – who last year also won his fourth All Star, became Tipperary’s all-time top goal scorer, and set a personal record of scoring a goal in all eight of his championship games – that begins with this weekend’s start of the Allianz Hurling League.
In the last five years there have been five different winners, only Tipperary haven’t won a league title since 2008, Callanan’s first season as a senior; there is also that lingering record of trying to win back-to-back All-Ireland titles, last achieved by Tipperary in 1964-65.
“Obviously it’s a very long time since we picked up a league medal,” he says. “There’ll be different aspects to the Allianz league now as well. You’ll be obviously trying to blood new players and lads trying to get their match fitness up. But it would be great to win a bit of silverware at the end of it too.
“It would get you off to a good start to the year, build momentum going into the summer. The Allianz league will be very important in our preparations. It’s like anything else, you get that jersey the first day out and you try and hold on to it for the rest of the year. That’s where you stake your claim.
“We’re not under any illusions. We’re back in the pack now. Once the year turns, we might have won the All-Ireland final last year, but it doesn’t count for much going into this year. And when you’re after winning something, you’re there to be brought down. It’s so competitive now, you have to be right every day you go out. And you learn every day you go out. It’s all a level playing field now.”
It’s also likely Callanan will retain the Tipperary captaincy for 2020, hand-picked last year by then new manager Liam Sheedy. Group A in Division One also includes four of the five Munster teams (Tipperary, Limerick, Waterford and Cork) which in ways makes it a sort of test run for the Munster championship.
It begins at Semple Stadium on Saturday evening with the visit of 2018 All-Ireland champions Limerick, who also got the better of Tipperary in last year’s Munster final.
“Really something to look forward to because we were all missing the hurling a bit over the last few months. I know the club action has been on and it has been keeping us going with Borris-Ileigh involved but there is great excitement with Limerick coming to Thurles on Saturday evening; it is a massive game.”
At age 30, Callanan is living proof that modern hurling is not necessarily a young man’s game. By scoring 1-2 in the All-Ireland final win over Kilkenny, he set that record of scoring a goal in every championship game during the year, eight in total, also bringing his total championship tally since 2008 to 35-215.
For all their league aspirations, the championship is where Tipperary will be measured again in 2020; any talk of the back-to-back will at least have to wait until then.
“No, I haven’t heard it from anyone yet really. There are new members of the panel and they’re trying to get their first one. That’s a long way away. That conversation is not in anyone’s minds really. We’re just trying to prepare for the Allianz league and trying to prepare as best for that as we can and set ourselves up for the summer.
“It’s very hard to get an All-Ireland medal. It’s very hard to win the trophy. But, look, you need to bide your time and keep going at it and keep plugging away.
“Looking back on it, I probably wouldn’t change the journey because it makes you really appreciate when you are playing. Everyone goes through tough times in their careers, up and downs so it’s just how you react to them and thankfully it’s kind of worked out for me. You just stay plugging away at it.