Eoin Kelly: Joe Canning is my Hurler of the Year

Tipperary’s legendary former captain looks back at Limerick’s victory in Sunday’s All-Ireland final and picks his hurler and young hurler of the year…


Limerick are deserving All-Ireland champions, Galway boss Micheal Donoghue said last week he felt the two best teams were in the final and he was right in that.

The hurling season was so good, and so much went on in the semi-finals, that you were just hoping for an unbelievable final to cap it all off.

Unfortunately, we didn’t really get that, but we got excitement for the last 10 or so minutes – it hit all the emotions then. It was brilliantly dramatic, but it was also a case of feeling ‘oh, don’t let this happen to Limerick’ and, on the flip side, you were looking at Galway going ‘these boys are showing some character’.

If Joe Canning had put over that free at the end of the game he’d have just brought himself to a new level of greatness altogether.

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When you take the National League and Championship season, there’s four pieces of sliverware that can be handed out: the National League title, Munster Championship, Leinster Championship and All-Ireland Championship.

We’ve had four different winners of all of those, so everybody has got a slice of something and Limerick have won the biggest prize.

After 45 years of waiting to see The Treaty County win it, I just felt there was something different about them all year.

The turning points for me were the way they got back into the semi-final with Cork and the win over Kilkenny in the quarter-final. The Kilkenny victory really kicked them on with their belief, it was massive for them as it was another 45-year hoodoo that they broke.

They’re an attractive outfit to watch too and I suppose when they look back at the final, they’ll be a small bit disappointed that they didn’t win the game by eight or nine points.

A game too far for The Tribesmen

The recent replays caught up with Galway on Sunday. With all due respect, playing Offaly in the Leinster Championship wouldn’t have been a big struggle of a game for them and when they played Dublin in the round robin game they were already through to a Leinster final, so that’s two matches where they didn’t need to be at full tilt.

However, it was the replays (Leinster final and All-Ireland semi-final) that has done them in and other teams are now matching them in the physicality stakes.

Add to that, Joe Canning was carrying a knee injury, Gearoid McInerney was struggling with his ankle and there were rumours John Hanbury wouldn’t even start too.

Everyone will look at Galway and ask was it the focus or their hunger let them down? Was it maybe taking the cup on tour around the county before Christmas? These are the things that are always asked when a team doesn’t win back-to-back titles.

For the majority of the game on Sunday they looked like they didn’t play the game to win it. Lads seemed to not stand up and were leaving it to other guys to do something – subconsciously that can creep into a team.

All they’ve heard since the start of the season has been ‘Galway are favourites’ and it’s like the players were almost waiting for All-Ireland day to come. During the year, they played as if they felt they were going to get there, but when you get to a final you actually have to play then.

You are not automatically handed back-to-back All-Ireland titles.

Jonathan Glynn came in for the Leinster final replay this year and was a revelation, but they’ve seemed to go with long balls since then and gone away from what made them successful last year, when they were pinging little angled balls.

The game on Sunday was definitely played on Limerick’s terms, not Galway’s.

My end of year awards

The Hurler of the Year prize is a funny one for me, I don’t like this thing of you can’t give it to a guy two years on the trot.

I know Padraig Mannion is the heavy favourite, but for me Galway’s best hurler all year was Joe Canning.

If you turn to Limerick then you are kind of searching around for someone. If Graeme Mulcahy got it, I wouldn’t say it’s a wrong choice. He was superb this season, but the All-Ireland Championships don’t seem to have an outstanding candidate for it.

If I was going to give it to anyone, I’d have to go with Joe and he was 10 times better this season than when he got it last year.

This is where the system can be wrong sometimes. He got it last year because Galway won the All-Ireland, but he’d tell you himself that he’s hurled better this campaign.

He almost single-handedly pulled Galway back into that game on Sunday. I’ve no problem at all with Padraig Mannion – he was very good all year – but for me Canning has been better than him.

As for Young Hurler of the Year, if Cork turn around and win the Under 21 All-Ireland final – it’ll be Darragh Fitzgibbon.

I know Kyle Hayes will have put himself up there with his All-Ireland final showing, however Fitzgibbon has been exceptional not only his season, but last year too. He’d have to be looking at getting the award for me.

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