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Three-time All-Star Callanan soaring for Tipp after bouncing back from back surgery

The Drom-Inch star forward has excelled for the Premier County after struggling to make an impact last year.

“TIPPERARY HAVE BEEN questioned coming up here about what they can and can’t do. Anyone that was looking for answers got them today.”

Padraic Maher, Alan Flynn and Ger Browne celebrate at the final whistle Tipp players celebrate their win over Wexford. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

So said Noel McGrath while receiving his man-of-the-match award after Tipperary’s All-Ireland thrilling semi-final victory against Wexford on Sunday.

It’s been quite the turnaround for Tipperary in 2019.

After limping out of the championship in the Munster round-robin series last year, they’re now preparing for an All-Ireland decider against old rivals Kilkenny.

A resurgence over the course of 12 months to chase down Liam MacCarthy for the first time since 2016 isn’t exactly famine-ending territory. But certainly, doubts have been cast about the future of this team.

The age profile of the players has come up at times. Some of the regular starters, including Brendan Maher (30), and Paudie Maher (30) have been central to Tipperary’s plans since their 2010 All-Ireland triumph.

There’s a lot of mileage in those legs, and after last year’s disappointing run, there were suspicions that possibly a changing of the guard could be required for the Premier County.

They had a flawless run through this year’s Munster campaign but questions resurfaced after they were outclassed by Limerick in the decider. And their unconvincing win over Laois in the All-Ireland quarter-final did little to eliminate the doubts.

But when the need was greatest against Wexford, this seasoned Tipperary side stood firm to get over the line.

Seamus Callanan, another member of that Tipp class of 2010, has been in inspiring form for Liam Sheedy’s side so far this season and he demonstrated his class once again on Sunday, hitting 1-2 from play.

His goal was a contender for score of the season.

And in a game where Tipperary were bizarrely denied the green flag on three occasions, the three-time All-Star’s incredible effort stood as a legitimate score.

It came in the ninth minute of the first half, with Callanan darting through the centre to get on the end of a Niall O’Meara pass in front of the Wexford goal. The Drom-Inch star waited for the ball to bounce before unleashing a rocket past Mark Fanning from a tricky angle.

It was his seventh goal in seven games for Tipperary, an astonishing run that brings him to 34 championship goals. His tally eclipses DJ Carey and Christy Ring’s joint-total of 33, making him the fourth-most prolific goal scorer in the history of championship hurling.

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Callanan could have finished the game with a second goal that would have put the result beyond doubt, but his strike in the concluding minutes of the game was blocked out for a ’65.

He was also at the centre of the third goal that was ruled out for Tipperary. Jason Forde delivered a long ball into the Wexford area where Callanan edged out an aerial battle with full-back Liam Ryan. 

GIF Callanan1 Source: RTÉ Player

Possession broke to Jake Morris and although his shot ended up in the net, the referee called the play back for a free and cancelled the score.

Callanan was a constant threat throughout the game and was surely a close second to McGrath for the man-of-the-match award.

Callanan is 30 years of age now and is one of the elder statesmen that had question marks over his head prior to the 2019 campaign.

And when you consider where his form was last year due to injury, there were concerns whether his body could continue to survive the rigours of senior inter-county hurling.

Problems with a bulging disc in his back forced the star forward to undergo surgery at the start of 2018, and his recovery kept him sidelined for the entire national league campaign.

He made his first appearance of the year in Tipp’s Munster SHC opener against Limerick and it was clear that he was leggy. The lack of pitch time left him chasing shadows.

And Tipperary’s early exit meant he didn’t have the opportunity to work his way back up to the pace of the game. 

But with Liam Sheedy back at the helm, 2019 is certainly a different year for Tipperary, and indeed for Callanan. He was available for the full league campaign and all injury woes appear to be behind him now as the All-Ireland final on 18 August beckons.

He has plenty of road left to go.

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