Portumna claimed their fourth All-Ireland crown this spring, but recent history suggests September riches will not follow suit. On the three previous occasions a saffron and blue shirt stood over the Tommy Moore Cup, stretching back to 2006, the Galway hurlers exited the championship before the first horse had fallen at Ballybrit.
Indeed, four Galway clubs — Athenry, Portumna, St Thomas’ and Clarinbridge — have annexed the club championship on eight occasions since the turn of the millennium and still the county’s wait for Liam MacCarthy lingers into its 26th year.
Canning, playing down the significance of Galway’s club dominance, rejected the suggestion that county players are content to take a back seat when the Portumna brigade arrive on site in late March.
“I don’t think so. I think just because we won a club All-Ireland… like 2012 as well, a Galway club didn’t win it and Galway got to the All-Ireland final so I think that thing is thrown out of proportion,” he said.
“2012 was the first year we got past the quarter-final in seven years. We didn’t get past it again last year and that’s just the way it is.”
Canning accepted the county’s All-Ireland famine, added to their recent club exploits has led to a sharp rise in expectations ahead of championship 2014.
“Your supporters are always that bit greedy and want to win it themselves. We’re the same as everybody else, we feel the pressure as well. We’re just looking forward to the year and hopefully things will go well.
“Supporters will talk about how long its been since we won an All-Ireland, but we’re just concentrating on June 1 and getting a performance ready for that day. If that’s good enough, then we’re happy enough.
“I think, so far, we’ve benefited from moving into Leinster. We’re getting good, high-quality matches and it’s good for the Leinster championship as well to have Galway in it.”
The Galway forward unit, deprived of Canning, Damien Hayes and Andy Smith for the opening four rounds of the league, blooded Jason Flynn, Cathal Mannion and Padraig Brehony. Canning is confident the trio will shake off their “fill-in forwards” tag come championship, but sidestepped the question as to whether Galway are best served with him on the edge of the square.
“To be honest, it’s where the management puts me. It doesn’t bother me too much. From a forward’s point of view it is just great to have Eugene Cloonan on board as coach. He has huge experience and a lot of the younger guys, myself included, all of the panel really, we looked up to him when we were younger.”
Cloonan hasn’t sought to employ Clare’s sweeper system since joining the management team and Canning believes attempting to mirror the Banner style is counter-productive.
“Everybody has their own traditions and everybody plays the way they have to. This thing that just because Clare do it, every other county has to do it, that’s not right either. You have a different set of players and you have to use what you have at your disposal.”