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Dublin: 8°C Friday 23 October 2020

'Joe is not going to be playing for me, I have to play for myself'

Jack Canning is making his own mark in hurling as he looks forward to a Leinster U21 final with Galway.

RISING GALWAY STAR Jack Canning says that coming from an esteemed hurling family has no bearing on his game or his attitude to the sport.

Jack Canning and Joe Canning celebrate Source: James Crombie/INPHO

He’s making his own mark as he continues to flourish in the small ball game.

Canning produced a man-of-the match display in the 2017 All-Ireland minor final last year as Galway lifted the crown and completed an historic double with the senior team.

The Portumna star has since progressed onto the U21 team who are facing Wexford in the Leinster decider next week, following a narrow victory over Kilkenny in Tullamore.

But despite his obvious talent and skill, Canning’s development as a player has always been linked with his family name and the relatives who have worn the Galway jersey with distinction.

His uncle Ollie was a stalwart defender for the county, while Joe was named the 2017 hurler of the year after Galway collected National League, Leinster and All-Ireland silverware.

“There’s a bit of that, but I try not to look into it,” he said.

Having Joe as an uncle, it’s a name alright but I don’t really look into it. Joe is not going to be playing for me, I have to play for myself. If I don’t perform, it’s down to me. I still have to hurl at the end of the day to try and prove myself.

“It was a great day,” he says about last year’s All-Ireland final.

“We got the win in the first game. Being there just underneath the Hogan Stand when the final whistle went, I didn’t want to do anything else than get out onto the field after the game.

“It was quite an experience, and probably one of the best days of my life to get out there and see Joe and give him a big hug. I was delighted.”

Thomas Monaghan with Michael Gilligan and Joe Keenaghan Galway and Offaly in action during the Bord Gais Energy Leinster GAA Under 21 Hurling Championship Quarter-Final. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The Galway U21 team began their first-ever Leinster championship campaign this year, which began with a comprehensive win over Offaly earlier this month.

Canning fired over a late point after coming on as a second-half substitute in that game, but a dead leg injury meant he had to wait until the semi-final clash with Kilkenny before making a starting appearance.

He admits that he was ‘rusty’ in that game, but stresses the importance of Galway having more competitive games to play.

“Yeah we still have another six weeks of training to do, whatever the result is the next day. It was a great win, any day you beat Kilkenny is a good day. We’re looking forward to it now.

“John Donnelly hitting the upright, it was a bit of luck from our point of view that he missed. They’re never beat until the end, Kilkenny. It was good though, a great game to win.”

Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling U21 Munster & Leinster Media Day Jack Canning at the Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling U21 Munster & Leinster Media Day. Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

The U21 team is his focus for now but Canning has been invited in to train with Micheál Donoghue’s senior charges recently as he continues to grow and mature as a player.

Galway are on course to defend their Leinster title as they take on Kilkenny in the final this weekend, and Canning has experienced the kind of intensity they will be bringing to Croke Park for the showdown on Sunday.

“I was just in and out for a few training games and stuff like that. It’s always nice to get in there, but I’m enjoying U21s,” he says.

It’s a different animal now, everytime I was in there it was tough. It’s a good experience to get in there and see what it’s like.

“It’s a big step up physically and mentally, from minor and even from U21s.”

He added:

The mood is good. It seems to going well at the moment in Galway hurling, hopefully it can stay going for another while. The monkey is off the back, the seniors getting the win last year, it takes a bit of pressure of them as well.

“We’re looking forward to it, in years to come. Hopefully the seniors get the win on Sunday, and we get a win ourselves.”

Canning also comes from a rugby background having started when he was 13 in Ballinasloe before later attending the Cistercian College in Roscrea for three years.

Micheál Donoghue shakes hands with Brian Cody after the game Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

It began as an activity to help him maintain his fitness levels, and while club rugby with Portumna is still there for him, hurling is his sole commitment for now.

When I was a young lad all I wanted to do was play hurling. Looking up to Joe and Ollie and they were playing in Croke Park, and that’s all I ever wanted to do. The rugby was nice to play but I don’t play it anymore, maybe a bit of club rugby with Portumna for a bit of craic.

“But I’m focusing on the hurling now at the moment, so that’s where I want to go.”

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