Saturday 18 January 2020

Canning laments 'crazy' break in club action

All-Ireland should go back to September, says Galway ace

Galway’s Joe Canning in action against Caolán Conway of Dublin during the Leinster SHC Round 5 match at Parnell Park in June
Galway’s Joe Canning in action against Caolán Conway of Dublin during the Leinster SHC Round 5 match at Parnell Park in June

The most fleeting, and doubtless frustrating, championship of Joe Canning's decorated county career ended on June 15.

Over two months later, on the weekend of the All-Ireland SHC final, Portumna are due to play their first senior championship group match since Galway's world imploded in Parnell Park.

For Canning, especially against the backdrop of a frenetic SHC schedule designed to free up summer weekends for the club game, it doesn't add up.

But that's just one of the reasons why he believes the All-Ireland hurling final should return to its old September home.

The other? He believes the GAA is scoring a huge own goal by conceding its erstwhile showpiece month to rival sports.

"I think it's crazy that we're not playing club matches in Galway in the last couple of weeks," said Canning, at a Bord Gáis Energy event to promote this weekend's All-Ireland U20 hurling semi-finals.

The 2017 Hurler of the Year was doubtless doubly anxious to see game-time after a cruelly abbreviated summer with Galway. A serious groin injury, in the league semi-final defeat to Waterford in March, resulted in surgery and a race against time to feature in the Leinster round-robin.


Canning made it back as a 46th minute sub in Galway's group finale in Donnycarney. However, despite a quickfire 0-2 from their talisman, the fancied Tribesmen lost to a late Dublin charge ... and then suffered the ultimate indignity of elimination on scoring difference, after Wexford's simultaneous stalemate with Kilkenny resulted in a four-way tie.

That was close to seven weeks ago. Portumna had already played two group SHC matches but are still awaiting their third. "I think we're out the 17th of August," revealed Canning, who believes they should have been playing two weeks after the Dublin defeat.

"Our (under) 20s were beaten a few weeks ago as well. Our minors are there, but they're not allowed hurl obviously. So, there's no reason," he maintained.

"The only reason I can fathom is that there's guys gone to America for the summer, and clubs won't hurl without them. That's probably the only reason that I find."

Warming to his theme, Canning ventured that a senior inter-county championship containing just one game in August is "too short". So he preferred when the hurling final was fixed for the first Sunday in September? "Oh, definitely. Even from a marketing perspective, if you want kids to play sport, have it as much of the year as you can," he said.

"Because it's not helping the club scene either.

"We played more club matches in the old system, during the summer, than we did in the new system. We would have played three club matches, compared to two now."

Canning qualifies as arguably the biggest personality in hurling. His appeal transcends county boundaries. So when he says that having the All-Ireland in September, when schools are back open, was a "huge" promotional tool, it's a point worthy of further examination.

Especially when you factor in his own recent club 'activity'. "I've said it before, I'd play the club championships early on in the year, from whatever, maybe February to May. And then have the inter-county championship until the end of September or whatever," he outlined.

"That's the way I'd do it anyway, because I do find it strange inter-county managers picking panels on the year previous and not on what they've just seen."


All of which begs the question: if you're playing county finals in May, what happens the league? Or do you opt for a new SHC structure instead?

"I'd probably play two groups of six," Canning suggested. "A Champions League or whatever way you want to do it. Every team is guaranteed five games then. And then your top two of each group play semi-finals or whatever way you want to work it out, and then the final. You could break that out over 13-14 weeks."

Food for thought. Especially in the long wait for some summer hurling.

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