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'He's a better man, a bigger man' - Spotlight on Tipperary star Séamus Callanan

Premier County sharpshooter has developed into one of hurling’s most lethal forwards.

Seamus Callanan celebrates scoring his second goal against Limerick last month.
Seamus Callanan celebrates scoring his second goal against Limerick last month.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

IN the closing minutes of the 2007 Tipperary senior hurling championship clash between Drom & Inch and Knockavilla Kickhams at Semple Stadium, then Drom & Inch manager Raymie Ryan summoned Séamus Callanan to the touchline.

“He was boring me on the field,” Ryan recalled in an interview with this writer last year.

“I called him over to the sideline and I said to him, listen you’re boring me.”

Ryan knew there was more in Callanan and the forward duly stepped up with a stunning goal in stoppage time, taking his match haul to 1-8.

Callanan duly stepped up with a stunning goal in stoppage time, a strike that took his match haul to 1-8.

In the semi-final of that year, played against Killenaule, Callanan struck again with another outrageous goal.

Raymie Ryan Raymie Ryan managed Seamus Callanan at club level. Source: James Crombie

Some observers may have had it down as a mishit but Ryan was in no doubt.

“He scored a great goal against an intercounty goalkeeper (Gerry Kennedy),” Ryan remembers.

“He (Callanan) beat him from 21 yards out, wrong footed him.

“That was some goal, top corner, gave him the eyes. Gerry went one way, and the ball ended up in the opposite top corner.

“That was probably the one that you’d say, yeah, that’s class.”

Drom & Inch were well beaten in the county final by Loughmore-Castleiney but Callanan had enjoyed a stellar season.

He’d come a long way in a short period of time, as Ryan remembers encountering “an impatient, talented 19-year-old young fella because he was playing corner forward for the club.”

Seamus Callanan lifts the cup Seamus Callanan won a county senior hurling medal with Drom & Inch in 2011. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

But Callanan revelled in the freedom afforded to him at centre forward and Ryan says: “From that moment on, that year, he blitzed every team on the way to the county final.

“He got onto the Tipp senior panel after that. The following year (2008), he broke onto the team.”

Callanan, who scored the winning point as a substitute against Kilkenny in the 2006 All-Ireland minor semi-final, quickly made a mark on the senior stage.

He made his debut against Cork in the Munster championship, scoring three points, and registered a goal in each of his next five championship outings.

In championship 2015, Callanan’s summer haul was a phenomenal 9-50 from seven outings.

Ahead of next Sunday’s Munster final, he’s on 21 goals and 100 points and his two-goal burst against Limerick drew him level with Eoin Kelly in the green flag standings.

He’s eight away from Lar Corbett’s goal tally of 29 in championship hurling and still only 26 years of age, there’s a fair chance he’ll get there.

Callanan’s lowest haul in championship 2014 was 0-5, including three frees, in the Munster semi-final defeat to Limerick.

Eoin Kelly 17/8/2014 Eoin Kelly's haul of 21 championship goals has been matched by Seamus Callanan. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

It was a day when he looked to have the beating of Richie McCarthy but the killer touch wasn’t there.

Callanan’s former club mentor Paudie Butler insisted at the time: “I think he was very unlucky against Limerick.

“He was playing fairly well, the ball just didn’t go into the net.

“I thought he played well, I thought he set up chances but it just didn’t click for some little tiny reason.

“The chances came again and he finished them. It’s fantastic for him, he’s a very talented, dedicated boy and mad about his game. And he’s in fantastic condition.”

Seamus Callanan scores his second goal Seamus Callanan has managed to shrug off the 'inconsistent' tag. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Callanan’s string of impressive displays have rendered the ‘inconsistent’ tag redundant once and for all.

“He can take criticism. 2008, 09 and 10 were very good seasons, 2011 was ok, 2012 was poor, 2013 was only moderate but he seems to have found his confidence, like a lot of intercounty forwards do in their mid-20s,” Ryan explains.

“Eddie Brennan, when he burst on the scene, was finding it hard to make the Kilkenny team.

“He was being taken off and then in his mid 20s, his career took off, the same with Richie Hogan.

“He’s (Callanan) gone to that different level, he’s just finding his confidence now but then the manager (Eamon O’Shea) has shown massive belief in him.”

Source: The Gaelic Gospel/YouTube

Whenever he was asked about Callanan last year, O’Shea accentuated the positives and bristled at suggestions that the player was inconsistent.

What coach Paudie O’Neill had noted last summer was Callanan’s embracing of a leadership role on the team.

Against Galway, a game when the chips were really down, he finished with 3-8. He added 2-10 in the facile victory over Offaly, another 0-11 in the quarter-final mauling of Dublin, 2-4 against Cork and 2-12 over the course of the two Kilkenny games.

For the purists, Callanan’s goals against Cork were real eye candy, one struck off his left hand side, the other off his right.

Source: hockeyhurlingshinty5/YouTube

Butler noticed Callanan’s rapid progress into a forward of real consistently and believed that he was in a really good position to continue his graph on an upward curve.

In last month’s Munster semi-final against Limerick, Callanan had another shot at McCarthy and took it, finishing with 2-4 (2-3) from play.

McCarthy was subbed off and Tipp romped to a 16-point win.

“It’s a great time for a person to be coming to his great years,” Butler adds.

“Coming too soon is very hard on people. I think he’s a lot luckier that he’s coming now.

“He has matured and he’s about the game now, about mastery of the game and mastery of the position. Now the pressure is off him to a large extent.”

Source: hockeyhurlingshinty5/YouTube

Ryan, as a former defender, describes Callanan as a back man’s nightmare. One second he’s there, the next he’s gone.

“There’s only one other player that you could compare him to, with the positions that he gets into,” Ryan says.

“The same as Johnny Leahy, he drifts into these positions that if there are other players on the field that can spot his movement, Seamie will always be in space to get the ball.

“That’s instinct. Johnny could be beside you one second, Seamie could be beside you one second, and then within two or three seconds, when the ball breaks, they could be 40 yards away in a lethal position.

“He’ll ghost into a dangerous position, he won’t drift into a position where he’s not involved in the game. He’ll drift into a position where if the ball goes in, he’ll pick it up.”

Paudie Butler addresses the assembled audience Former Director of Hurling Paudie Butler was one of Seamus Callanan's underage mentors. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Butler remembers that Callanan, as a young boy, was “very slight, depending on speed.”

But he’s 6ft 3” tall now, well able to win his own ball and in Butler’s eyes, “that makes an awful difference.”

And Ryan agrees: “When he came on the scene first, he was a light, wiry 19-year-old but now with the training that’s there, he’s after developing his muscle base.

“He’s a better man, a bigger man. That happens in your mid 20s anyway, it’s natural development.”

The next step along the road for Callanan was to light up Croke Park on All-Ireland final day, like he did in 2010 when he came off the bench to flash over two classy points.

Munster and All-Ireland finals are special days made for special players. Right now, they don’t come much more special than Callanan. The lights are on and the stage is set again.

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