Galway hurler and Red Bull ambassador Joe Canning is currently nursing his way back to full fitness, and is confident of making it back into the county’s side for the latter stages of the National Hurling League.
The Portumna powerhouse has been out of action with a hamstring injury since the Tribesmen’s All-Ireland semi-final loss to Tipperary last August.
Galway have not gotten their hands on the Liam McCarthy Cup since 1988, despite coming close on several occasions, losing six finals since. At 28, Canning understands that success will not come easy, and feels that the county is at a severe disadvantage at minor and u21 level.
Galway are excluded from the Leinster Championship at those grades, despite their participation at senior. While this has perhaps led to a plethora of success at underage, the Westerners lose out on competitive games at a formative age for young hurlers.
Speaking to Pundit Arena, Canning revealed his thoughts on the issue.
“Of course they are [at a disadvantage]. For the development of hurling in the west of Irelamnd, we’re at a serious serious disadvantage that we only get into the minor and u21 championships at the semi-final stage. Realistically, there’s no development going on at county level for the last number of years.
“You see other countiess like Wexford the last couple of years, winning three Leinster titles in a row, they probably played 9, 10, 12 games over those three years, there’s a good batch of players that were there all three years.
“Compare that to Galway, who can only play maximum six games over three years, compared to 12 for Wexford. You’re halving the amount of games at a developmental age from 19-21, so that’s obviously a huge disadvantage for a county like us trying to develop the game in the west of Ireland, and trying to produce senior teams who can compete for All-Irelands as well.”
In 2007, Joe Canning won his sole u21 Championship with Galway, beating Cork and Dublin to claim the title. The Rebels had beaten Tipperary, Clare and Waterford to reach the semi-final, but were edged by a Galway side who were on their first outing of the summer.
The next month, they accounted for a strong Dublin side who had won four championship games to reach the decider, compared to Galway’s one.
Canning feels that despite the success, campaigns like this have held Galway back in the long run, as the lack of games proves a to be a disservice to the county.
“I think I hurled four years at u21, I played five or six matches maybe. I won one All-Ireland. You don’t really play too many matches. That year we were fresh.
“In the longer scheme of things, it might have been better off for us to play four matches that year and not win the All-Ireland, rather than playing two and winning it.
“That’s not taking away from an All-Ireland medal, that’s just for the long road ahead at senior level, to progress players and to get them used to competitive intercounty games, is always a bit better.”
The very fact that a player can openly state that himself and his team would be better off not winning an All-Ireland speaks volumes, and highlights the growing frustrations within Galway hurling.
Make sure to catch up with the latest episode of the !6th Man, Pundit Arena’s weekly GAA podcast, where we catch up with Michael Murphy.