Record-breaker Callanan eyes another smash-hit
By John Harrington
Tipperary captain Seamus Callanan can break another record against Kilkenny in Sunday’s All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final.
This year he has already surpassed Lar Corbett as Tipperary’s greatest ever Championship goal-scorer and leapfrogged legends of the game like Henry Shefflin, Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard, and Eddie Keher to become the highest scorer from play in the history of the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship.
He’s scored a goal in every Championship match he’s played this year and if he scores another to bring his all-time tally to 35, then he’ll draw level with Keher on the all-time goal-scoring list.
He has already scored more goals from play than Keher, but the Kilkenny hot-shot was an extremely prolific goal-scorer from frees.
The dream for Tipperary fans would be that Callanan bangs in two goals on Sunday to leapfrog Keher entirely and go second on the all-time goalscorers list behind Rackard.
It would be the perfect way to end what’s been an incredible season for the Tipperary skipper, but he he’s not the least bit worried about personal glory going into Sunday’s match.
“It would just be nice to get a goal,” said Callanan. “It’s not about leaderboards or anything like that, it’s a goal for Tipperary.
“If the goal chance doesn’t arise, that’s fine with me too.
“I’m not out there to break any records, I’m just out there to contribute as best as I can for Tipperary, and that’s it.”
Of all the goals that Callanan has scored not just this summer but throughout his career, you could argue that his best yet came against Wexford in the All-Ireland SHC semi-final.
Running at full pelt onto a ball that was bouncing away from goal, he unleashed a beautifully timed first-time shot that sent the sliotar whistling past Wexford goalkeeper Mark Fanning’s ear.
The purity of the strike was something to behold and was another reminder that Callanan is one of the greatest forwards to ever play the game.
“Ideally, I wouldn’t have whipped on it really but it bounced up lovely,” said Callanan.
“If it went any further out to the side the goal chance maybe was gone.
“It just bounced up sweet and I had to pull on it at that stage. Thank God the connection was good and it went in.
“That was a bit of luck on the day too that it hopped up in my favour. You take them when you can get them.
“I just kind of got my feet right underneath it. I thought it was going a little bit out right but the second bounce it actually just bounced up really nice. It was there to be pulled on and thankfully the connection was right.”
Last year Callanan hit just 0-5 from play in four Championship matches for Tipperary but he was still clearly feeling the effects of the serious back surgery that had ruled him out of their entire League campaign.
This year he had the benefit of a full pre-season and League campaign and came into the Championship in optimal physical condition.
“There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, trying to get your body right to be able to train,” said Callanan.
“There’s huge value in actually being able to train, never mind being able to play on a Sunday or whatever it is. Being able to train and get that workload into your body without any problems.
“Thankfully I got a run of that this year. The pre-season really stands to you when it comes to this stage of the year.
“It’s great to get a good foundation in at the start of the year and that hopefully sets you up for a positive summer.
“It doesn’t always work out like that either. You need a bit of luck along the way to avoid injury.
“You see the likes of Brendan Maher, he made a great comeback from a knee injury. He has come back better than ever.
“I’m sure Bonner Maher is going through that rehab at the moment and I’m sure he’ll bounce back better than ever as well.”
Tipperary’s older guard have led the team’s charge throughout this Championship campaign.
Callanan, Brendan Maher, Padraic Maher, and Noel McGrath have all excelled, as did Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher until he ruptured his cruciate in the Munster SHC clash against Limerick.
The irony is that many were happy to write Tipperary’s All-Ireland chances off at the start of the year because they were ‘too old’.
“It is something that was to brought to my attention,” admitted Callanan.
“You know how you feel about your own body and any of the guys that are playing never doubted that they were still able to contribute to the panel.
“That’s only talk for outside, nobody in the group really listens to any of that.”
The veterans on this Tipperary panel have been through a lot together since they first emerged as a talented generation in 2009/2010.
They would have all known each other long before then, even, from underage club matches in the county, and over the years a really strong bond of brotherhood has developed.
“The likes of Michael Cahill, Padraic Maher and these guys, U12 championship, we were all the same age group,” recalled Callanan.
“We would have met every back then and even in schools matches, primary school and that.
“We would have been on underage panels together as well.
“There’s a huge friendship there. I’m sure that’s probably in most inter-county panels, there’s usually a group of guys that have been together from underage all the way up along.
“It’s a fair journey. It’s great and there’s great friendships out of it apart from hurling. It’s brilliant.
“We’ve been through it all together. We’ve won and we’ve lost. You’ve had hard years and that but the bond always gets stronger and stronger.
“The more time you spend with people the stronger it is.”
“The demands of inter-county hurling at this stage now are huge so you’re together more and more often.
“It’s all good and benefits you towards game time then.”
For most of their careers, it looked like this generation of Tipperary players would almost be defined by the shadow cast over them by a great Kilkenny team.
When Tipperary won the 2010 All-Ireland they looked poised to dominate the game like Kilkenny had in the noughties, but instead Kilkenny came roaring back to bump Tipp back down the pecking order.
For a long time these Tipperary players were accused of not fulfilling their potential and were compared unfavourably to their Kilkenny peers, but the 2016 All-Ireland win over the Cats changed the dynamic somewhat.
If Tipperary could also win Sunday’s All-Ireland then Seamus Callanan, Brendan Maher, Padraic Maher, and Noel McGrath will have played Kilkenny in seven All-Irelands, winning three and drawing one.
That would balance the ledger nicely, but Callanan insists the fact that it’s Kilkenny on Sunday doesn’t make them any more determined to win the match.
“I think it’s more ‘Let’s go out and win for our group’ rather than ‘Let’s go out and beat Kilkenny’”, he said.
“We have a really dedicated group and I would just love to see them achieve.
“I’d love to see us all achieve. We’ve put a lot of work into it and I’m sure Kilkenny have done the same.
“We’ll just concentrate now get our preparation right and try to get up to the level that Kilkenny have been at the last few games.
“I’d love to see us fulfil our potential and hopefully get there.”