I love team environments. I love the competitiveness when you come up against your opponent.
I’ve always been competitive.
There were seven kids in our family, six boys and one girl, so that meant a certain amount of fighting your corner right from the start. It also meant I always had someone to play sport with.
I started hurling young. I played for Galway for 15 years. I retired from the team in 2010 but I still play with Portumna. I’m nearly 40, so I’ve been playing for 35 years. Sport instilled discipline in me and I’ve carried that into my adult life.
My advice is that you have to give it 100%. I came across great players who didn’t have the same level of discipline and watched them fall away.
When I left school, I studied mechanical engineering and the day job is National Technical Sales Manager with Kirby Group Engineering. I also work with Canning Hurleys, the family run handmade hurley business.
Sky Sports started covering hurling in 2014 and asked me to start working for them. I’d done some media work beforehand, although I’m not sure I’d say talking on air comes easy to me. If I’m asked for an opinion, I give an honest one.
While I’ve a busy schedule, I’m really looking forward to working with the team in Sky again this summer. We’ve a great relationship built over the last few seasons and I’m lucky to work on a sport I’m so passionate about.
My biggest fault, certainly when I was playing hurling at county level, was that I was a selfish person. Some consider it madness to give so much to an amateur sport. I thought it was a great honour. Even at the level I’m playing at now, it takes a huge commitment.
I live in Galway City and drive 55 minutes to Portumna after work to train at 7pm. Then I commute back again. I’ve always done this. The challenge has always been the time commitment. The sacrifices are huge, not for yourself, as you are so absorbed, but for your family and loved ones.
I met my wife Áine when she was working in PR, organising an event for Supermacs, the Galway team sponsor, when I was captain. I think its safe to say you wouldn’t have found her at many GAA matches before we met.
When she saw the amount of time I gave to the game it was a shock to the system. If we had training on a Sunday morning that meant bed by 11.30pm the night before, but she stuck with me. We got married two years ago. We had to change the dates of our honeymoon to accommodate the county final which was delayed by nine weeks that year.
In terms of my nutrition I do some work with therapist Eleanor Winters of Embody Health. She advises me on the foods I need to best fuel my training and supplements to support this and help recovery also.
I’ve started heated yoga with ‘Yoga Yoga Galway’ once or twice a week. I find it excellent for intense stretching, helping to recover from hurling training sessions while also working to prevent injury. It also gives me some nice time out from work and training.
Tourists watch hurling and can’t believe the game is so fast, guys jump together, hurls flying, and yet there are so few injuries. That is a skill in itself, in the heat of competition. But if you start young, you learn how to put your hands and head in the correct positions.
I think GAA should remain amateur. If money came into the equation the game would get diluted and would lose something. The players do it for the love of the game.
I’m not sure if there is an afterlife. For me that’s a hard thing to comprehend. Maybe we change all the time as we progress through life. As Mohammed Ali said, if you are the same at 50 as you were at 20, then you have wasted 30 years of life.
So far life has taught me that to be successful at anything you must commit fully. I believe if you have a talent for something then you are obliged to give it your all. The worst you can do is look back with regret.
Ollie Canning is a hurling analyst with Sky Sports GAA
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