‘Why look for the negative always?’ – Joe Canning on criticism of high-scoring hurling

JOE CANNING WILL be fit for Galway’s Leinster SHC semi-final against Dublin or Antrim after a thumb injury forced him to sit out the final league game against Cork. 

The Portumna veteran was a spectator in Pairc Ui Chaoimh as Galway picked up their fourth league victory of the campaign after a 3-25 to 2-23 the Rebels. 

“It’s just kind of an old injury, a bit of ligament damage,” he said. “It’s in a splint there for two weeks, and I’ll be fine then again. I’ll be fine in two weeks’ time, just a bit of rest more-so than anything.

“I’d say we’re happy enough with where we’re at, at the moment,” he said of Galway’s strong start to the season.

“Obviously there’s a lot of improvements to do. The last few games were heavy scores to be conceding. Although on the other side of that, we’ve been scoring fairly high as well.

“But yeah, we’ve got lads back to play a few matches again. So it’s good to get competition for places more-so than anything. We’ve used a lot of players. I don’t know how many. But we’ve used a lot in the last four games. So it’s been a good league.”

As the points total in hurling continues to rise, Canning feels high scoring games should be celebrated rather than criticised. 

High free counts, lighter sliotars with smaller rims, and hurleys with a bigger bas have been mooted as reasons that scoring continues to soar, but Canning believes it’s down to skill levels.

“People talk about the 2014 All-Ireland final, the drawn match, as one of the best games that we’ve ever seen. Do you remember the score in that? 3-22 to 1-28. Do you know what I mean? That’s 31 points each.

“People say that was one of the best games ever, and that’s a high scoring game. That was back seven years ago now. It’s kind of a thing that somebody might say it, and then everybody jumps on the bandwagon and goes, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s getting too crazy, the scores’.

“And then there was another thing about the frees being too much. But nobody reported then, against Waterford I think I only hit four frees. Against Cork yesterday, I think Evan Niland only hit seven frees or something like that, roughly.

“That’s not too many frees. But nobody has said the free-count has come down in the last two weeks. All they’re talking about is there’s too many frees. Perception is sometimes skewed in a way that it wants to be skewed.

“I think when you do facts, it’s the same about the ball, everybody is saying the ball is way too light, ‘The ball is too light, we need to make it heavier’. When in fact, it’s almost the same weight as it was back in 2005.

“There was nothing said about it. Even when Diarmuid O’Sullivan scored that point from over 100 yards back in the early 2000s, that was supposedly one of the best scores ever, the ball wasn’t too light back then. So people can be funny sometimes with how they see things.”

#HurlingToTheCore ambassador Joe Canning at the launch of the second series of Bord Gáis Energy’s GAAGAABox, which features the most passionate hurling fans across the country filmed in their front-rooms as they experience the agony and ecstasy of following their counties’ fortunes from home. You can watch GAAGAABox on Bord Gáis Energy’s #HurlingToTheCore YouTube channel throughout the Senior Hurling Championship.

Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

The 32-year-old also reckons players should be applauded for long-range scores which he says is still “not an easy thing” to do. 

“There’s a wind in that as well. That’s a skill. I’d be worried if everybody could do it. But not everybody can do those kind of things. I remember last year, we played Tipperary down in the Gaelic Grounds, and I was hitting a 65 into the Caherdavin side.

“And I had to take a run-up, take a step back because the wind was so much. But then on the other side, the wind was going the other way. So things like that come into play in different situations, in different games.

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“So I think we need to be more positive about it. Maybe it’s just Covid or whatever, that people are getting negative about stuff. People seem to give out about things a bit more lately than they ever did. So try and look at the positives. Take it for what it is and try and enjoy it.

“I think with crowds coming back, that will add to the whole thing as well. Why look for the negative always, and try and change things when there’s no real need to do it? We have one of the fastest field sports in the world. Why not enjoy it while we have it?”

Following his telling contribution from frees in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final after Canning was forced off with injury, Niland shouldered the responsibility from placed balls for Galwayy in a number of league games. 

“As long as the ball goes over the bar, that’s the main thing,” remarks Canning. “It doesn’t bother me and I’d say it doesn’t bother Evan either who takes the frees as long as we’re scoring them. 

“The day I came on against Limerick, Evan was going well on them so why would I take them then? He’s striking them very well and struck them well yesterday. He has come on a huge amount over the past few months, strength-wise even. 

“He would admit himself that he’s not the biggest man in the world but he gets around the pitch fairly well for us, and he’s a good option for us to have. He’s hurling very well.”

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