Joe Canning with the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 2017. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
No Show Like a Joe Show

'In my opinion, Joe Canning is the best hurler to ever play' - Tony Kelly

Kelly, Jamie Barron and Tommy Doyle pay tribute to the recently-retired Galway great.

AS THE HURLING continues, the dust settles on Joe Canning’s retirement.

The Galway great called time on his inter-county career last month at the age of 32, just days after he became the top-scorer in championship history.

In the immediate aftermath, tributes flowed on for 2017 All-Ireland champion and Hurler of the Year Canning but like with everything, life moved on, and the focus switched back to the Race for Liam MacCarthy glory.

With just Limerick and Cork left standing, several other counties have joined Galway in exiting the championship and players are afforded time to reflect.

At yesterday’s PwC Player of the Month awards announcement, Clare star Tony Kelly and Waterford midfield maestro Jamie Barron did just that.

And of course, Canning came up in conversation.

“Obviously a massive loss to hurling, a massive loss to Galway,” Kelly nodded.

In my opinion, he’s the best hurler to ever play. Just from a sheer hurling standpoint, he could do absolutely everything. Great skill, great size, great athleticism. He had everything. From a young age even.

“When you were growing up at 12, 13, 14, you were even following him playing minor. I think he played in three All-Ireland minors in-a-row. A huge loss for even younger players growing up. I would have loved to see him play another two or three years.

“But definitely, I think the best hurler that’s ever played. I know he probably hadn’t as many All-Irelands won as some of the Kilkenny lads, or some of the Cork lads, but an absolute joy to watch, and in my opinion, the best hurler that I’ve ever seen play.

“I don’t think there’ll be another one as good as him for a long time, in terms of anything he could do; high ball, low ball, frees, line balls, from play; everything. A massive loss for hurling and an even bigger loss for Galway.”

Game recognises game, as they say. That’s certainly high praise.

joe-canning-in-action-against-jamie-barron Jamie Barron chasing Canning down in 2015. Ken Sutton / INPHO Ken Sutton / INPHO / INPHO

Barron spoke similarly glowingly of five-time All-Star Canning, who bows out with four All-Ireland titles at inter-county level: senior (2017), U21 (2007) and minor (2004 and 2005).

His roll of honour also shows three Leinster senior titles and two league crowns with Galway, four All-Ireland titles with his club Portumna, and a Fitzgibbon medal with Limerick IT.

Barron refers to Canning’s electric senior debut of 2008, in particular, in which he announced himself on the biggest stage with 2-12 against Cork in an All-Ireland qualifier.

“It’s a strange one. I’ve played against Joe a good few times since I came on the panel with Waterford. Before that, he was one fella I used to look up to,” the Nire-Fourmilewater club man said.

“I remember I was at the game between Cork and Galway the day he got 2-12, I think it was when he was 18. I was in the stand watching it as a 14 or 15-year-old. You’d just be looking up to him and thinking, ‘Could you ever play at that level?’

“Most of the fellas who played against him in the last few years were fellas who aspired to be him. It was strange in that way. Obviously, he was a phenomenal player. He was probably one of the greatest to ever play, in my opinion.”

joe-canning-and-diarmuid-osullivan Facing Diarmuid O'Sullivan that day in 2008. Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

Speaking to The42 this afternoon, Westmeath star Tommy Doyle wholeheartedly echoed those sentiments, also paying a lovely tribute to the retiring talisman.

“It’s mad. Just such a talent, unbelievable player. Look, probably announced that at 16 or 17-years-old and to do it for his career, and always show up on the big day.

“I remember going into the shop one day to get a photo with him, he was only 17 or 18 but everyone knew about him. To be marking him four or five years later and having one of the toughest games of my life to try and stop him.

“Unbelievable player, will be forever remembered as one of the greatest at inter-county level. If Davy Glennon came down, we’d take Joe any day too! Just wishing him all the best on a super career, and well done on that All-Ireland medal in 2017 as well. Fair play.”

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