canning: 'WE CAN MATCH ANYBODY'
OLLIE CANNING has called on Galway to cut out the costly mistakes that scuppered their Championship ambitions in 2009 -- and then, he believes, they can be a match for anyone.
Hurling's great enigmas are now third favourites to end an All-Ireland drought dating back to 1988, their credentials enhanced by that emphatic National League final triumph against Cork earlier this month.
This wouldn't be the first time, though, that promising Galway stickmen have flattered only to deceive on the ultimate summer stage -- but Canning is confident that they are going in the right direction under manager John McIntyre.
Last year they were involved in a titanic Leinster semi-final battle with Kilkenny only to falter in the home straight. They still made it back to the All-Ireland quarter-final stage, where they had Waterford on the brink only to suffer inexplicable defeat courtesy of a late Déise scoring flourish.
Looking back, Canning believes that Galway's relative lack of big-time experience told on the day. "All the lads on that Waterford team played in huge Munster Championship games, Munster finals, and they came through serious games against the likes of Cork and Tipperary. They played in classics, and still came out on top. They just stuck with it against us, and we were extremely disappointed," the four-time All Star corner-back explains.
"We made progress last year -- we gave Kilkenny a good rattle early in the year. But again, we made mistakes that day -- coughed up a very sloppy goal in the first half, probably shooting ourselves in the foot a small bit. But we feel, if we can eradicate those kind of mistakes, we're capable of matching anybody that's out there."
Winning the League should help the younger Galway players, especially, imbuing them with confidence for the bigger tests ahead. On that score, Canning is adamant: the Championship will be faster and more intense, including against promoted Wexford opponents who wintered in Division Two.
"The League is over, we've won it, a great achievement for us, but there's no point thinking about that next Saturday week when we're playing Wexford," he concludes.
Almost 14 years have passed since Canning made his SHC debut against Wexford, as a late corner-forward substitute in the 1996 All-Ireland semi-finals. Wexford were champions a month later -- Galway and Canning are still waiting.