The Galway youngster operated at full forward on a team that included six inter-county players and his contribution of 1-9 was hugely significant as the home college led the defending champions from start to finish in front of a huge crowd.
In a typical Fitzgibbon Cup tie, no quarter was asked or given as both sides went all out for the win.
While Canning was the scoring star for LIT, there were a number of other magnificent performers on the winning team. Kilkenny’s full back Jackie Tyrell was superb at full back, as were Shane McGrath, Conor O’Mahony (both Tipperary) and Maurice O’Brien (Limerick) in the half back line.
Kieran Murphy (Cork) and Jonathan Clancy (Clare) who could well oppose each other in the upcoming Munster championship tie between the two counties, won the midfield exchanges for LIT, while apart from Canning, his county-man Iarla Tannian, Eoin Cadogan and Austin Murphy also made significant contributions to the win.
Credit to WIT, they didn’t bow out easily, but an acute shortage of scoring forwards cost them dearly. Over the hour they could only manage three points from play, while the remainder came from placed balls scored by Willie Ryan.
LIT set their stall out very early in the game when Canning scored the first of his nine points from frees, and with Kieran Murphy making some powerful surges forwards from midfield and Iarla Tannian doing like likewise from wing forward, the home side were full value for their 0-6 to 0-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.
With the marking extremely tight, the frees began to flow and by half time LIT had forged into an 0-9 to 0-5 lead, significantly all but two of the 14 points coming from play, and all five of the WIT tally from frees scored by Willie Ryan.
WIT upped the tempo considerably after the break, cutting the deficit with two quick points.
Kilkenny senior PJ Delaney was introduced at full back in an effort to contain Canning. But the Galway man showed his class with a splendid goal in the 40th minute which put his side six points clear and closer to a quarter-final meeting with UCD.
WIT threw caution to the wind by giving up their man-marking tactics, they came forward in waves and three points in a row left Canning’s goal between the sides at the three-quarters stage.
The game was still there for the taking as it went into added time and LIT coach Davie Fitzgerald’s heart must have skipped a beat when John Mullane bore down on goal with the sliotar in his hand but the Waterford senior player was penalised for over-carrying and the chance was gone.
Said Fitzgerald: “We knew going into the game it was going to be difficult and they were worthy champions, but if we are to have any chance of progressing further we’ll have to cut down on the frees. It’s something we’ll have to work on for the next game,” he said.
LIT: J. Canning 1-9 (0-7 frees, 0-1 65); I. Tannian 0-2; K. Murphy, B. Gaffney, J. Clancy 0-1 each. WIT: W. Ryan 0-11 (0-10 frees, 0-1 65); K. Brady, K. Moran, E. Reid 0-1 each.
J. Skahill; M. Walsh, J. Tyrell, A. Byrne; S. McGrath, C. O’Mahony, M. O’Brien; K. Murphy, J. Clancy; E. Cadogan, A. Murphy, I. Tannian; A. Callinan, J. Canning, J. McUnerney.
B. Gaffney for McInerney; D. O’Reilly for Callinan.
D. Young; C. O’Brien, K., Brady, K. Lanigan; K. Moran, J. Dalton, H. Moloney; D. Hoctor, C. Parlon; P. Hartley, J. Mullane, A. Cullinane; E. Reid, L. Lawlor, W. Ryan.
PJ Delaney for Parlon; G. Nolan for Cullinane; R. Good for Hoctor; R. McLoughney for Lawlor.
T. Ryan (Tipperary).