Ollie Canning says Galway no longer depend on Cannings alone

Joe Canning will be seeking elusive senior title while nephew Jack is in the minor showdown

These are testing times for the impartiality of hurling analysts such as Ollie Canning. Sunday’s All-Ireland final not only has younger brother Joe seeking that elusive title with Galway after years of trying, but their nephew Jack is also in the minor final showdown.

For Canning – who lost All-Ireland finals with Galway in 2001 and 2005 – the strength of that family connection is impossible to ignore: he himself experienced it in 2005, when losing the senior final to Cork, the same day Joe triumphed with Galway in the minor final, beating Limerick.

“That was a little different, us being brothers, and Joe being Jack’s uncle,” says Canning, an analyst with Sky’s live broadcast of Sunday’s final. “But you just try to enjoy the build-up, as much as you have to concentrate on the game, and the plan. I played in two finals and lost both, we just weren’t good, but from a Galway point of view, I was delighted the young lads won on the day.

“Jack is doing fine. I’ve only been chatting to him a few times about it. It doesn’t get dwelled on too much at home, the guys have to get with life outside hurling as well. Jack has done his Leaving Cert and is trying to get his college and all that good stuff sorted out as well.


“It’s a huge day for the players only 17 or 18, and all you can do is hope they go out and perform to their potential, and the day doesn’t pass them by, and they can do themselves justice.”

Trio with Portumna

All three Cannings (the two brothers, and nephew) played together earlier this year with Portumna in the Galway championship (Jack being the son of their brother David Canning): no less than Joe, Jack was a standout player in their minor semi-final win over Kilkenny, although Canning believes if either, or both, Galway teams are to win on Sunday, they can’t be reliant on the Cannings alone. Everything he has seen so far this season suggests they are not, Joe certainly seeing a lightening of the load, and expectation, on his shoulders.

“Definitely you depend on 10 or 11 players winning their battle. That means a number of forwards playing well, and a number of defenders. And it is encouraging that Galway have a number of forwards playing well this year, getting in the scoreboard, Joe Cooney and Conor Cooney at different times, other times too, so from an overall point of view, I think Galway are a more balanced team this year, more composed, and that’s what you need, and that has to be very encouraging for the players and the management.”

Canning’s heart and head feels this might well be Galway’s year, but that will also mean winning critical battle in the middle third of the field – especially given Waterford’s inevitable use of the sweeper: “It is, especially in hurling, you can often by-pass the sweeper system, simply because the ball can travel so far, so fast. Quality ball into the forward line can always take the sweeper out of the game, so definitely midfield will be crucial as well, that middle eight, to get the best ball into those inside forwards.

“Galway being favourites is also slightly different, but the players know Waterford will be very tough, so it’s never spoken about, doesn’t impact on the preparation. In my experience it was never spoken about. The supporters might talk about it. And I suspect it’s not an issue for this Galway team.

“It’s also slightly different this year in that the championship has always felt more open, even going back to when Galway beat Tipperary in the league final. So there was a lot of optimism in Galway, and also in Waterford too, in the way they’ve come through.”

Sky’s coverage of Sunday’s final begins on Sky Sports Arena from 2.30pm and Sky Sports Main Event from 3.30pm.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics