Long game: All-star hurler Ollie Canning on playing in his 40s

THERE’S luck and there’s talent, and in rough-and-tumble contact sports one often depends on the other. But for All-Star winning hurler Ollie Canning it’s all down to luck.

Long game: All-star hurler Ollie Canning on playing in his 40s

By Irene Feighan

THERE’S luck and there’s talent, and in rough-and-tumble contact sports one often depends on the other. But for All-Star winning hurler Ollie Canning it’s all down to luck.

He considers himself lucky to have remained largely injury-free throughout his playing career, allowing him to continue fielding the sliotár aged 41 with his local club.

“In the last four or five years, I’ve been very, very lucky. I’ve missed very little through injury. I know of some people who when they get into their late 30s their bodies start to give them problems with hamstring or knee injuries, for example.”

Age, however, does come at a cost. “As you get older you have to be more careful with the amount of physical activity you do. I don’t pick up too many injuries. But if I do pick up one it takes me longer to recover,” says the Galwayman who played at senior county level for 15 years and now works as business development manager for Kirby Engineering and as a GAA analyst on Sky Sports.

- Ollie Canning alongside fellow GAA legends, Sean Cavanagh, Michael Fennelly and Daniel Goulding have teamed up with Electric Ireland for this year’s ‘This is Major’ campaign as part of its ongoing sponsorship of the GAA Minor Championships. Follow the conversation with the hashtag #GAAThisIsMajor.

What shape are you in?

I’m in OK shape. I’m still playing with my club Portumna, on the senior hurling team. It’s about an hour’s drive from Galway to Portumna. When I’m training I do that maybe three or four times a week. Typically we have a 10-minute warmup; 20 to 25 minutes of ball work and drills; then we may play a training game and we may finish up with some sprint work. We would be expected to do a little gym work on the side to keep our strength up.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

My wife and I try to stay away from all processed food — eating fresh is the way we go. We do some juicing as well. The ingredients depend on whatever fresh vegetables are in the fridge — carrots, celery, cucumber and so on. We add an apple or carrot for a bit of sweetness. And we put in some apple cider vinegar.

To be fair to my wife Áine, she has been a great supporter of my hurling career. She would be very health conscious about the fuel we put into our bodies.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

At the weekend we’re partial to a takeaway — either a Supermacs every now and again or an odd time we go for an Asian takeaway. We like to go out with our friends, have a glass of wine. Life should be enjoyed — it can’t be all vegetable juices.

What would keep you awake at night?

I sleep very well. My wife says it’s like a superpower. Sometimes I say goodnight, she looks over and I’m fast asleep.

How do you relax?

We live in Knocknacarra in Galway, so we’re very close to the prom. We’re also very close to Silverstrand beach — we could be down there in five minutes. We have a little dog Odie, a bichon frise that we fostered from Madra, a dog rescue group in Connemara. We bring him for walks. Sometimes we go for a swim off the diving board at Blackrock in Salthill — it definitely makes you feel alive.

What’s your favourite smell?

I like the smell of the sea around Galway. You can always get the seaweed off it, you get the salty air coming in from the sea.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

During my hurling career if I was another inch or two taller it probably wouldn’t have done me any harm. Being 5ft 9in you’re not the tallest man in the room.

When is the last time you cried?

I’m not that much of a crier, to be honest.

What traits do you least like in others?

I don’t like when people knock other people’s success. I think it’s an Irish thing.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

Sometimes I need to take my own advice instead of giving it to other people.

Do you pray?

Not regularly. I wouldn’t be a regular mass goer. But I do find that churches can be peaceful places to get away and have a think about things. Churches can give you certain comfort.

What would cheer up your day?

Winning the Lotto. Some good weather cheers up everyone’s day, especially on the west coast where we get the Atlantic ocean blowing in storms and rain. And if the weather is good and the ground is dry — then you’ve got perfect conditions for hurling.

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