Who better to ask whether Joe Canning is a hurling legend than a hurling legend himself?
The great Tommy Walsh joined told Off The Ball to discuss the retirement of Canning, and gave a fascinating insight into what set him apart.
Canning revealed that he had decided before the start of this year that he was heading into his final season.
"I had it in my head all year that this would probably be my last year," he said this afternoon. "I don't want to overstay my welcome, or be there as a token gesture.
“I told the boys after in the dressing room, that was it, so have to keep my word a bit on that one.
“I will keep playing with Portumna, but that’s me finished with Galway."
Tommy Walsh on Joe Canning
"Skill. He was deceivingly fast," Walsh said when asked what set Joe Canning apart.
"I always thought Joe was powerful fast, but what I always come back to with Joe is skill. If he was growing up now, he would have missed one or two county finals, and perhaps a club All Ireland, because of the age.
"He won a county final or two before he reached 18, and a club All Ireland. Not many people get to do that, no matter what size you are. You only have to go back to his debut season in 2008, when he was marking 'The Rock' - was it about size with Joe?
"He was on Diarmuid O'Sullivan, I have him as number one in the hardest players to play the game. He scored 2-12 that day. That great Cork team were in their pomp."
Walsh reiterated that technical ability went some way to setting Joe Canning apart.
"What it will always go back to me with Joe is skill. The sideline cuts, he scored four of them in last year's All Ireland semi-final. He scored 1-16 in a Fitzgibbon Cup final that they lost [...] he scored another four sideline cuts.
"Look at the all-time Championship cuts - he has 27 of them - the next on the list still playing today is Austin Gleeson with six.
"I've been practising sideline cuts since lockdown came in and I still can't get them 20 or 30 yards over the bar! Some lads have this insane talent, and then they back it up with years and years of hard work - Joe did that.
"The mental side of the game as well, the pressure that the man was under since he was 16 years of age. No player, in my opinion, has gone through that type of pressure.
!You go to our Kilkenny team and Henry Shefflin. Henry had Eddie Brennan to take the pressure off him; JJ, Richie Power, Eoin Larkin, TJ - serious hurlers. You go onto the Tipperary team and Eoin Kelly, one of the greatest hurlers, had Lar Corbett and then Seamie Callanan and Noel McGrath.
"With Joe, it always was 'How did Joe play?' if they lost or won. Whether they won or lost, it was about him all the time. To be able to deal with that was tough but he handled it with great humility."
The greatest ever?
Walsh spoke about where Joe Canning features in the debates about the greatest hurlers.
"He's going to be in the conversation, depending on the type of hurler that you followed, liked or modelled your own game on. But he is definitely up there, he he is in the conversation as one of the all-time greats.
"You only have to look back at some of the scores, some of the wins - he has basically won everything in the game. On a personal level, as Hurler of the Year, Young Hurler of the Year, a man of the match in a club All Ireland final at 17. The list goes on and on.
"He is universally-loved. No matter what county you're from [...] the young fellas, the old fellas - they absolutely adore the skills he brought to the game.
"Above all, the humility he brought. He was lucky enough to be reared in a hurling and farming background so you could never get too far ahead of yourself!
"His brother, Ollie, was one of the best corner-backs to ever play the game. The stardom was in the family already so it was that bit easier to not get ahead of himself."
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