The Galway marksman had already accounted for 1-8 of his side’s 1-15 total at that stage and even in a game bristling with inter-county players, looked a class apart. But a 45th-minute collision (which looked accidental, no free awarded by All-Ireland final ref Brian Gavin) saw him leave the fray holding his left shoulder and in obvious pain.
LIT, inspired by Canning had four points on the board (including two from flying corner-forward Cathal McInerney, who gave Brian Mulrooney a torrid time) before Brian Hogan opened the GMIT account.
The goal came in the 22nd minute, Canning getting off the deck to rifle home a 20m free after a foul double-challenge that saw his own county-man Conor Forde yellow-carded. That strike put LIT ahead 1-6 to 0-4.
This is an LIT team with scoring potential in every area. Corner-forwards McInerney and Cathal O’Connell (both Clare) have pace and an eye for the finish, the half-forward line of Sean Collins (another Clareman) on the 40, flanked by Limerick’s Seanie O’Brien and Eoin Ryan, are capable scorers.
Against that firepower Donagh Maher and Ger Mahon (especially) did as well as could be expected in the centre but theirs was a fire-fighting job.
The LIT defence too was well on top. Full-back Richie McCarthy and wing-back Paudie O’Brien surely caught the eye of watching Limerick manager John Allen. So too must the two best midfielders on view, LIT’s Paul Browne and GMIT’s Wayne McNamara.
At half-time LIT were well on the way to victory, 1-9 to 0-5 in front, and it was looking very much like a home win. Thus it transpired.
GMIT didn’t help their own cause with four frees conceded in the opening eight minutes which Canning coverted. When he followed up with a tap-over 65 in the 40th minute to put LIT 1-14 to 0-5 ahead, it was all well and truly over.
So once again Davy Fitzgerald-managed LIT make it to the Fitzgibbon Cup weekend. Last year they reached the final only to lose to Limerick rivals UL, but they didn’t have Joe Canning, out with a foot injury. Should it happen again it would be a terrible blow to Canning and his colleagues. Fitzgerald admitted. “I’m more disappointed for Joe; we’ll get to play a semi-final and — please God — a final, but I’m disappointed for him.”
Scorers for LIT: J Canning 1-8 (1-5f, 0-1 65); C McInerney 0-3; P O’Brien 0-2; E Ryan 0-2 (0-2f); P Browne, S Lambert, S O’Brien, S Collins, C O’Connell, 0-1.
Scorers for GMIT: J Gelston 0-3 (0-2f, 0-1 65); B Regan 0-2; K Greene, J Hanrahan, C O’Brien, 0-1.
LIT: A Fahy (Clare); E Glynn (Clare), R McCarthy (Limerick), B Glynn (Clare); J Hayes (Limerick), J O’Keeffe (Tipperary), P O’Brien (Limerick); S Lambert (Galway), P Browne (Limerick); S O’Brien (Limerick), S Collins (Clare), E Ryan (Limerick); C McInerney (Clare), J Canning (Galway), C O’Connell (Clare). Subs: R Horan (Clare, Canning inj. 45); C Madden (Limerick, O’Connell 57); M Duggan (Clare, Collins 57); C Nelson (Clare, O’Keeffe 58); G Guilfoyle (Clare, O’Brien 59).
GMIT: J Keane (Galway); G O’Halloran (Galway), D Maher (Tipperary), B Mulrooney (Offaly); C Forde (Galway), G Mahon (Galway), S Coughlan (Offaly); K Waters (Offaly), B Regan (Galway); J Gelston (Galway), A Lynch (Clare), K Greene (Galway); J Liddy (Clare), W McNamara (Limerick), N Mannion (Galway). Subs: C O’Donnell (Clare, Waters 30); C Cannon (Galway, Greene 45); J Hanrahan (Galway, Mulrooney 49); K Feeney (Mayo, Mannion 57).
Referee: B Gavin (Offaly).