Highly-rated Galway hurler Jack Canning has decided to take a sabbatical from hurling to pursue a rugby career in Australia, he has exclusively revealed to Pundit Arena.
For most talented young hurlers, the dream is to progress from inter-county minor to U21, and eventually onto senior level. However, one of Galway’s young hopefuls has decided to buck the trend and step away from hurling for a year for a “fresh start”.
Christmas will be a special day in the Canning household this year as 19-year-old, Jack Canning, nephew of Joe, prepares for a major life change in just a few short weeks. He will join up with the Northern Suburbs Rugby Club in Sydney in January as he looks to carve out a new career in the sport, spending at least nine months Down Under, he confirmed to Pundit Arena.
While it might seem like a sudden and unexpected move for a hurler who scored 2-02 in their minor All Ireland win just last year, Canning is no stranger to the oval ball having attended Cistercian College in Roscrea.
“I played Senior Cup Rugby with Roscrea for three years. I started when I was 13, I played in Ballinasloe for three years and I went to Roscrea then.”
“Hurling will always be there but I said, ‘why not? I’ll give it a go’. I want to travel a bit, a new adventure.”
Following their thrilling win over Cork in last year’s minor final, the Portumna native was drafted into the U21 panel that lost out at the semi-final stage to eventual champions, Tipperary.
So, what prompted a young hurler with a bright future to take such a sudden and drastic break?
“Winning an All Ireland medal for your county, it doesn’t get much better than that from a hurling point of view. It was a great thing to win. You only have two years at minor so it was nice to have that but you can have 10 or 12 years at senior if you want and if you’re good enough. That’s why I wanted to try the rugby now for a year to see how it goes.
“I’m not doing it just for the rugby, I wanted a new look at life. I want to go out and explore new things and meet new people.”
We see every year the mounting pressures that can be associated with playing GAA. The recent GPA survey revealed that players dedicate 31 hours of their week to their sport, compromising in other areas of their lives. That demand would be draining for anyone, let alone a teenager starting out, and Canning admits he needs to take a step back and explore other avenues before committing to anything.
“Jesus, hurling isn’t everything. You have to enjoy yourself, not enjoy yourself as in socially, but you have to get out and explore things.”
“You can’t be always working your life around hurling. It can tie you down. It can drag you down with the pressure.”
“I just thought, why not have a break from it and the lifestyle and try a different lifestyle?”
Being involved with Galway hurling is always going to come with a certain level of expectation given the success the county has enjoyed in recent years. However, when you’re related to one of the best hurlers in the country, it adds another dimension.
“When you have Joe as your uncle, it can bring its own bit of pressure but Joe’s not going to perform for me. I just have to perform for myself. Joe’s not going to go out and hit the ball over the bar for me, I have to do that myself. You might look at it with a bit of pressure but that’s not because of him, that’s on me. Just because my name is the same, he’s not going to play for me.”
A chance to carve out his own path in another country in another sport is something Canning is desperately looking forward to. At the moment, the plan is to return in December of next year, depending on whether or not he decides to attend college in 2019, but if all goes well, who knows what the future may hold.
“I actually can’t wait for it now, it’s only seven or eight weeks away, it’s flying. Not many people know about it and I really am looking forward to it. It should be exciting, a new path. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out but if it does, God knows where it will take me.”