Ollie Canning expects Galway to bounce back
By Cian O'Connell
Ollie Canning is adamant that Galway can respond following a cruel exit from the 2019 Leinster Senior Hurling Championship.
A defeat to Dublin at Parnell Park ended Galway's summer last year and it will act as a source of motivation according to Canning.
"All players, all hurlers, and I was like that in my own career; if you felt that you didn't perform the year before I think it is an extra incentive, especially when it came down to the wire last year in the Leinster Championship when any of the teams could have qualified," Canning says.
"I made the comment last year that it was very, very tight in the Leinster Championship. Galway had done some decent hurling, maybe a couple of results, they could have sneaked a victory when they had a drawn match, they lost and had a win.
"They had some good results and some average results. Unfortunately the Leinster Championship is so tight that the average results came back to bite them in the end."
Under new boss Shane O'Neill, Canning feels that Galway can make an impact, but the opening encounter against Wexford will be critical.
"There would be an incentive there for the players, at least their first goal should be to try to bounce back this year, to try to get on a consistent run that will bring them through," Canning states.
"Teams coming back because of the new format, and if I was a manager or I was still playing, I'd be looking to play the least number of games.
"It is played over eight weekends, for me you really don't want to go through qualifier round one, qualifier round two, in the backdoor that way. There will be a match every week, with very little time for recovery, very little time for management teams to think about adjustments or anything like that.
"For me I'd be aiming to start strong, win your first round, move on that way, at least get to a Munster final or Leinster final that route.
"I think going through the qualifiers is going to be a very tough year this year with no recovery time and the opportunity to pick up extra injuries, stuff like that.
"Will Galway have an incentive to bounce back after not qualifying from Leinster last year? Definitely they will, I think the players will feel that."
Canning also reckons that the manner in which 2020 has unfolded means it is even more demanding on managers, such as O'Neill, who are in their first campaigns in charge.
"Yeah, it is, definitely the teams I feel with managements in place for a couple of seasons, they have done a lot of work on getting to know the players, getting to know the team play, whether that is puckout strategies, how the team lines out, how the team defends," Canning replies.
"All of that stuff takes time. Managers when they come in, they want to impart their knowledge and their thinking about the game, to try to incorporate that into team play, puck out strategies, etc..
"For new managers this year is going to be very difficult. We have seen some of the teams getting a bit of momentum early in the year as the League progressed. All of that momentum is definitely gone at this stage."
Different challenges have been embraced, though, in this demanding spell.
"Everybody had to disband, all of the players went back to the club set-up, played the Club Championships," Canning adds.
"A lot of the new managers have been pretty much in limbo until they get the players back from the club scene. I know a lot of county finals will have finished a couple of weeks ago.
"Them players would have returned to the county set-up so they'd have a couple of weeks under their belts. Unfortunately, Shane O'Neill, as you mentioned, is only getting the players back from last week when St Thomas' beat Turloughmore in the final.
"You have to let them players have a few days off, to celebrate or to drown their sorrows, whether you are winners or losers in a county final. He is probably only getting some of those players back about now.
"I think you have maybe 10-12 players involved from both of those clubs. For Shane O'Neill he has a short run in now to try to get everybody back on board, to assess the injuries, assess how fit players are coming back from the Club Championships.
"Most of the players that have gone a long way in the Championship, reaching a final, they should be in pretty decent shape. Then you have players maybe returning who were knocked out early in the Championship.
"It is going to be a battle for managers this year. It is a unique year, we have never seen anything like this before. You have lots of challenges there with teams coming back, players coming back late to the management team with only three or four weeks to really prepare for the start of the Championships."