Cork’s man of action

Graham Canty does not really enjoy giving interviews, so much so that he recently gave one about why he’s not such a fan of them.

Therefore, rather than talk to the man himself on the occasion of his 60th championship appearance for Cork against Galway this evening, we decided it would be better to get an impression of him from others.

Canty made his debut as a late substitute against Limerick in 2000, getting a first start against Waterford the following year, and since then only college exams, in 2003, and injury have prevented him lining out.

“The most striking thing about Graham, and you’d notice it from your first encounter, is that he’s a man of action rather than words,” said Daniel Goulding.

“If he ever does say something to the group, he’ll have thought about it and won’t say something just for the sake of it, he’ll mean it. Graham will always leave everything out on the pitch. He’s as hard as nails.

“I remember the semi-final against Tyrone in 2009, we were in a bit of trouble after Alan O’Connor got sent off but Graham set the tone. He laid down a marker that he was going to work harder than anyone and the rest of the team followed.”

The only previous player to pass the 60-mark, Nicholas Murphy (62) recalls Canty making himself noticed fairly soon after joining the panel, though not in a show-off sense.

“He was an imposing presence,” Murphy said, “very methodical in everything that he did, always trying to improve himself.

“If someone had advice to give him, he’d always listen and be looking to learn from the experienced guys. He brought that forward then himself as he got older. He’d always be encouraging players on the field and doing everything he could to help the younger players.”

A former opponent of Canty’s, Kerry’s Dara Ó Cinnéide, draws a comparison with a team-mate of his.

“In a lot of ways he’s like Séamus Moynihan,” he said. “You’d be hearing that he was carrying an injury or whatever and writing him off but then he’d come out and have a stormer. There’s a huge resilience about him.

“He’s a player with great leadership qualities who commands huge respect, and Kerry would often have targeted him, because if you got a run on him, then Cork would be weaker.”

Looking through Cork sides of the past decade and longer, it’s noticeable how quickly the Bantry Blues man established himself as a central player. For Larry Tompkins, who gave him his debut, it was something that was almost destined to happen.

“He was always a guy that was a standout player at underage,” he said. “It wasn’t rocket science to think that he would measure up when he made the jump to senior.

“I suppose in your first 12 months on a senior panel, you’re learning all the time. You have to be willing to learn and Graham was like that.

“He didn’t mind getting stuck in and you always like to see that in a fella, somebody who’ll go right up to the line rather than shying away from it. There were a lot of changes taking place in the team, and you were looking for guys to show some leadership, Graham and Nicholas Murphy would have been two fellas who really did that.”

It was leadership by example rather than simply shouting and roaring.

“You could always see the characteristics, even if he didn’t necessarily stand out as being vocal,” Murphy said.

“In training, he’d always give 100%, trying to be as good as he could be. He developed his game, practising the things he mightn’t have been as good at.”

Being so versatile has meant being deployed as a firefighter, with Canty placed where the team needed him most. Sometimes, the opposition could be lifted by the sight of him away from his best position.

“The one thing that you’d notice is the big stride as he came out from centre-back with the ball,” Ó Cinnéide said.

“That’d always get the Cork crowd up, and I think that when Kerry would see him going in at full-back, they’d have preferred it, especially if he marking someone like Declan O’Sullivan.

“Against Kieran Donaghy would suit him, but a fella with a big gallop like him wouldn’t always be comfortable at full-back and having to turn quickly.”

No matter where he plays, one thing always guaranteed is effort, Murphy feels.

“He was able to play in the full-back line, half-back line and midfield, he even had a brief stint at centre-forward, which mightn’t have been as fruitful! I suppose like any player, you’d like to be consistently playing in the one position, but Graham was so flexible you knew that you could put him into a position and he’d do a job.

“Even when he was given a man-marking job, he came out on top more often than not.”

His relish for straight-up, one-to-one combat is a huge asset in this regard.

“He’d be very confrontational, definitely not stand-offish,” Ó Cinnéide said.

“He just seemed to love that element, which is why he was so good in the International Rules, he was made for that game, with the aerial combat and just going man-to-man with someone.

“You’d never say he was dirty though, there was nothing sneaky with him, a very honest player. You’d always get the impression that there was no bullshit about him.”

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