Seven goals in-a-row: Séamus Callanan leading Tipp from front and top
Captain has been in inspirational form for Premier County in their run to the final
Séamus Callanan celebrates a goal against Limerick in the Munster final. “Putting on the jersey is incredible but being able to score when you’re in it and contribute, that’s huge.” Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
The morning after Séamus Callanan scored a goal and three points in the third round of the Munster championship, against Clare, he got a text message from Lar Corbett congratulating him on his new hurling record.
Corbett softly jested that there was no such fuss when he set the previous record, but was no less delighted for him, knowing full well the task and significance of it.
With 2-4 already to his name, a goal against both Cork and Waterford in the opening two rounds, Callanan went into that Clare game in Ennis needing just one more goal to become the top goal scorer in Tipperary hurling history; his tally at that stage, 29 goals and 200 points, had already surpassing the goalscoring feats of Eoin Kelly (21), Nicky English (20) and Jimmy Doyle (18).
He was by then the joint top goalscorer alongside Corbett, who reached a grand total of 29 goals and 80 points in his 61 championship appearances for Tipp from 2000-2015.
“He was on to me alright, that’s the type of guy he is, very supportive,” says Callanan. “A lot of the goals I’ve scored, he’s laid down on a plate for me as well. So it’s all healthy, all good, absolutely.”
Not that Callanan ever set out to break that record, nor does he get hung up on it.
“I had heard the conversation. But at the end of the day it’s about contributing best to a Tipperary result. Whoever gets the goals, it doesn’t matter. I’ve been fortunate to get a good few of them, and that’s great, but a Tipperary win is all that matters. I don’t really look in to anything else, any records or personal things like that. I honestly don’t look at it.
“I didn’t even know that was a thing, until the last few matches. Look, it’s lovely, but it’s three points for Tipperary, hopefully a win.”
Since that 30th goal against Clare, he’s added four more in the four games since: he’s now scored 34 goals and 213 points in all his championship games, including seven-in-a-row in his seven games this summer. That’s a record for him.
“I don’t think I scored seven in-a-row before, no. I hope it lasts for another day. People mention it to me, I don’t really realise it. If you get the opportunity as a forward you just want to make the most of it. Some days it will go in and some days you could hit five of them and they will go anywhere else bar the goals. You need a bit of luck every day you go out.”
This Sunday’s final will also mark Callanan’s 55th championship appearance for Tipp, this his 12th season, more than anyone else on the panel; he’s also scored in all but four of his 49 games to date, another remarkable record by any standard.
Callanan is also one of only three players to play every minute and every second of Tipperary’s seven championship matches this summer, along with goalkeeper Brian Hogan and defender Páraic Maher.
At age 30, he’s not just one of the most senior players on the panel; a natural leader both from the front and top, by nature of his position and by example, given his consistency of performances.
If only Liam Sheedy knows all of the reasons why he chose Callanan to captain the Tipperary hurling team in 2019, most of them are already becoming perfectly apparent. It’s as if the captain’s role was simply a glove made to fit.
A three-time All Star, Callanan has also struggled with a back injury in recent seasons, making the goalscoring records of the Drom and Inch player the more impressive.
“We’re not told any day you go out that goals are the only option,” he says. “We’re not told anything like that. You have to play it as you see it in match time. You can’t prepare for any of these things. You can go out and train and practice scoring goals, scoring points, but a game takes a life of its own.
“For a goal chance to come, you have to have someone out there taking on his man. I was lucky enough the last day, Niall O’Meara done an awful lot of work for my chance.
“You see the under-20s, they banged in eight goals. But there had to be somebody taking on the man or doing the hard work to put someone else in the position to score them. I don’t think it’s a culture that has come in. Just if the goal is on, it’s just a natural thing for the forward to go for it.”
His goal against Wexford proved particularly useful, given Tipp were down to 14 men from the 46th minute: his reaction was evidence of that too.
“When you’re inside in the full-forward line and you get an opportunity you want to have a go at it. You’re scoring a goal in Croke Park on All-Ireland semi-final day. It’s special, it’s what you train for.
“Every time you get a chance to score and get a three-pointer for your county. Putting on the jersey is incredible but being able to score when you’re in it and contribute, that’s huge. If you were at the game you’d get that feeling that everything was going against you. To pull it back and actually to go and win the game was huge, really huge.
“There seemed to be a few knockbacks. The most important thing was that we stayed in the moment, ground it out. That was a real positive to us.
“That’s the character and resilience that I’d see in abundance every single night I’d go to training. I was just glad that everyone else got to see it because it has always been there. It was great that All-Ireland semi-final day, when the chips were down, in the heat of battle, the lads really really stood up, took on responsibility, took on leadership. And we got there.
“It’s going to be such a huge challenge but I suppose there’s no point in just being happy to be there either, you have to want to go on and win it and we’ll be doing everything in our power to try and get a performance to do that. But a huge obstacle stands in our way.”
And what’s his response to critics who reckoned the 2010 All-Ireland winning team were over the hill.
“Well I was one of them there, and I thought I was fine, so I wasn’t questioning myself really. You hear all that but at the end of the day a lot of the guys that are seemingly over the hill are going to play to play in Croke Park on All-Ireland final day, so we mustn’t be too bad.”
Séamus Callanan: seven-goal scoring machine
1-4 v Cork (Munster round robin)
1-0 v Waterford (Munster round robin)
1-3 v Clare (Munster round robin)
1-4 v Limerick (Munster round robin)
1-1 v Limerick (Munster final)
1-2 v Laois (All-Ireland quarter-final)
1-2 v Wexford (All-Ireland semi-final)
Total championship tally since 2008: 34-213