Galway City Tribune - Opinion Piece
Mountains and molehills: Joe’s storm in a teacupSeptember 20, 2012 - 9:16am
The surreal sense of anti-climax which followed the final whistle of the drawn All-Ireland hurling final seemed to extend through all of last week for elements of the national media, who seized on a couple of pretty innocuous comments by Galway’s Joe Canning and turned them into a storm of ‘controversy’ which bore little relevance to what he actually said.
Hardly anybody expected Galway to put it up to the title-holders in the manner they did on September 9 and, no doubt, many of the national GAA correspondents had planned to spend last week lauding Kilkenny’s sixth title success in seven years and Henry Shefflin’s achievement in becoming the first ever hurler to win nine All-Ireland medals. A glance at the match programme shows that all five ‘experts’ went for Kilkenny to retain their title.
There was a void to be filled, and sure enough an unsuspecting Canning managed to fill it with a couple of pretty minor comments at the end of a routine 12-minute interview with a number of journalists in the build-up to the U-21 All-Ireland final.
The young Portumna man must have been shocked to wake up on Wednesday morning and find that he had made national headlines, accusing Shefflin of being ‘unsporting’ in a front page splash by the country’s biggest selling newspaper. The same paper went on to run six pages over two days about the same ‘controversy’, which even led former Kilkenny star Eddie Keher to proclaim that he was “horrified” by Canning’s remarks.
But Canning never said that Shefflin was ‘unsporting’, rather that a particular action on the day was “not sportsmanlike”. He said that the Kilkenny star had run 30 to 40 yards to remonstrate with referee Barry Kelly over the awarding of one specific free in the drawn game, which is an entirely different matter.
The Galway attacker’s comments that Kilkenny defender JJ Delaney, was “not happy” when Shefflin hit his 68th minute penalty over the bar were, perhaps, ill-judged. But when you hear them back on the audio which was widely circulated in the wake of the ‘controversy’, you realise they were made in a jocular manner right at the end of an informal interview.
What Canning said was probably repeated in one way or another by every single person in the 82,000 crowd as they left the ground, and the hundreds of thousands watching on television, as most hurling fans would have speculated that a Kilkenny goal at that stage would have killed off the game.
One of the problems with modern hurling is how ‘invisible’ the current generation of stars are. Since the advent of the obligatory helmets rule, even the likes of Waterford’s John Mullane does not stick out on a pitch any more. It has often been remarked that that there are surprisingly few household names (or well-known faces) on the current Kilkenny team, who are notoriously shy of the media despite all they have achieved.
But then you see how Canning’s words were twisted out of context last Wednesday and you can understand why many inter-county hurlers, who are amateurs after all, are so wary of elements of the media.
When you see the obscene amounts of money many soccer players in the English Premier League are paid, we should be proud of our local hurling heroes, who work so hard to represent their families, parishes, and counties for nothing more than the love of the game.
What Canning said or didn’t say will have no bearing on the outcome of the replay, just as Brian Cody’s concerns over strict refereeing had no bearing on the drawn game, which was particularly well handled by Westmeath official Barry Kelly.
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.