Séamus Callanan says time to build on Tipperary's success
Winner of All-Star in 2016 says Tipperary want to continue last year's success
Tipperary’s Seamus Callinan: “Sometimes you won’t score as much as you do in other days, but you have to take that too. Once you’re enjoying the game, that’s the main thing.” Photograph: Inpho
“Ah no, a line has been drawn under last year,” says Séamus Callanan. “It’s time to move on and focus on what’s ahead.”
Only nothing and everything about that is true: for Tipperary the big problem has nearly always been stringing together two successful years of hurling. Focusing on what is ahead inevitably means drawing something from 2016 rather than just drawing that line under it.
Callanan actually comes around to that realisation too. Speaking ahead of Saturday night’s opening game of the Allianz Hurling League against Dublin, he admits that building on their All-Ireland success of last year is an obvious priority given their failure to do likewise back in 2011.
“We obviously want to achieve a lot more now. We’ll take it step by step. We had a good break over the winter, so everyone is ready to go again. We’re just hungry for the year to start and to get going.
“You start every year wanting to win the All-Ireland. There are a lot of steps in the process, and you have to start at the first one. The first challenge is Dublin here in Croke Park in the league. It’s nice to get a run-out in Croke Park so early in the year, so soon after last September. And it’s something we’re really looking forward to.”
After Tipperary’s All-Ireland win in 2010 came a distinctly mixed 2011: they lost their opening league game to Kilkenny and ended up mid-table. Their championship appeared to be going well, hammering Waterford in the Munster final (7-19 to 0-19), beating Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final, before losing to Kilkenny in the final 2-17 to 1-16.
For Callanan, who won his third All-Star in 2016 and finishing with a championship tally of 2-47, there are some lessons to be learned from that happened in 2011.
“Well, you have to take into consideration that its Kilkenny that won the All-Ireland, and it’s no mean feat to have them winning it. So I don’t think we did anything wrong after 2010. We have a group now that’s up to the age, is around long enough, and has seen both sides of it. We’ve seen the winning and the losing.
“We know it’s going to have to go up a level this year compared to last year. It’s all step by step. The league is very important for us to start off with. We’re not looking past any match, want to win every game.”
Tipperary last won the league in 2008, but their back-to-back winning record mirrors their championship, and goes back to 1964-65. What Callanan is certain about is that Tipperary have the players, the likes of John McGrath, Ronan Maher, Dan McCormack and Seamus Kennedy, all ready to step up again on their new-found highs of last year.
“Yeah, they had absolutely outstanding years, and they can only be better for the experience of it and that. But there’ll be no pressure on them at all next year. Just go out and hurl. It’s the same for everyone. Everyone has a licence to play.
“In fairness to the management, they give you the chance and the opportunity and then it’s up to yourself what you make of it. The boys took their chance last year and ended up with All-Ireland medals.
“That’s great because it shows other guys in the panel as well that you’ll be given a chance to break into the team, and if you take it then the jersey is yours until you lose it. It gives great confidence to players that if you’re putting in the hard work that you’ll get the opportunities.”
Indeed, Callanan may find himself under added pressure this year, or at least attention, given his headline acts of last summer.
“Sometimes you won’t score as much as you do in other days, but you have to take that too. Once you’re enjoying the game, that’s the main thing. That’s what I play it for. I don’t find pressure in any occasion.
“I work hard in training, and I don’t ever leave any stone unturned. If it doesn’t work out for me on any given day, that’s the way the game played out. Somebody else I’m sure will stand up. I don’t ever put pressure on myself in that regard.
“For Tipperary, we’ve lost enough of All-Irelands to really appreciate what it means to win one. When you see the comparison between the two and you’re in the dressing room after the two of them, winning and losing, there’s only one dressing room you want to be in.
“That should be motivation enough to get going and to push on really well for this year again.”