The Joe Show, that most popular one-man production which has been enthralling crowds since the middle of the last decade, ain’t running these next two months.
The hope, from a Galway hurling perspective, is that the award-winning drama will
return to stages in Thurles and Dublin 3 sometime at the back end of July, but there are no guarantees on this front. Indeed, when it was recently put to Joe as to when he planned to - quite literally - get the show back on the road, the 30-year old couldn’t have been more coy.
“It’s 14/16 weeks from the surgery, so whenever that is,” he said vaguely.
Of course, there have been plenty of spring campaigns where the Galway hurlers were forced to make do without Joe Canning for a significant number of games, such as 2012 (shoulder), 2014 (club commitments), and 2018 (knee). But that was the league. And the league, as we all know, is only the league. This is championship. And Canning has always been there, front and centre, during championship. Always.
Having made his championship debut, against Antrim, on the afternoon of June 26, 2008, during which he threw over a handy 2-6, Canning has missed just two of the 57 championship games Galway have played since his first inclusion 11 years ago.
Of the 55 he featured in, he was present inside the whitewash from the throw-in for 54 of them. The odd one out was the 2011 Leinster quarter-final against Westmeath where he came off the bench with 13 minutes remaining, still managing to raise three white flags during the limited time he was on the field.
With regard to the two games where he was marked absent; the first was the 2012 Leinster quarter-final, his non-appearance stemming from shoulder ligament damage incurred during a club game a couple of weeks before the Westmeath fixture, while last year, he was not used against Dublin in their Leinster round-robin meeting as Galway had already secured qualification to the provincial decider.
In terms of championship minutes clocked and scores contributed during this 11-year period (his current total of 27-423 has him second behind Shefflin on the all-time list), Canning’s portfolio makes for pretty impressive reading.
Just how reliant this Galway team are on Canning will become evident in the coming weeks as Micheál Donoghue’s charges attempt to navigate their way through four round-robin games - at the very least - without him to the plot their course.
Compounding the sense of loss - and significant deficit his injury creates at centre-forward - is the exceptional form the five-time All-Star winner displayed during the league. He was, once again, the county’s top scorer by some distance, racking up 0-57 (0-50 from frees).
Such had been his contributions in leading the county to the penultimate round of the league, former Galway forward Niall Healy, speaking to this paper in advance of the county’s meeting with Waterford, tipped Canning to haul the Tribesmen into the league decider. What subsequently materialised at Nowlan Park has put a significant dent in the county’s championship ambitions.
“Joe is hurling unbelievably well and seems to really be
enjoying his hurling these days,” Healy had said days before the groin injury befell his former teammate.
“He is not carrying knocks. He is playing every game like he wants to play every game. He is flying it week in week out. That can only be good for the summer ahead.”
The summer ahead now rests in the hands of Conor Cooney, Jason Flynn, Cathal Mannion, and Conor Whelan. Joseph Cooney and Jonathan Glynn aren’t long off the airport tarmac from Australia and America respectively and so it is likely they’ll be used off the bench over the next two months.
Niall Burke, who missed the earlier rounds of the league owing to Oranmore-Maree’s run to All-Ireland intermediate club glory, has carried out the impact sub role during Donoghue’s tenure, but may well get the nod to fill, or at least attempt to fill, the centre-forward void.
Burke wore the number 11 shirt to very good effect during a 2012 campaign where Galway wound up in the All-Ireland final, but for some reason, Anthony Cunningham tried to make a corner-forward out of him the following year. Outside of him, Davy Glennon could be promoted to the starting team at corner-forward, with one of the regulars switching out to Canning’s spot.
Galway captain David Burke, who has consistently pulled his weight at midfield in recent seasons, has challenged his forward colleagues to stand tall in Joe’s absence.
“Every day you go out, you want to have Joe playing, but, unfortunately, he has picked up a knock.
“Obviously, we would love to have him, but we have to look for a positive and it is that this is a great opportunity for other lads to step up to the plate,” Burke told the
“We have serious forwards in the county that can perform on any given day. So even though we are down Joe, I think it is an exciting time for the other forwards.”
As exciting as the Joe Show, though? Not likely.