Graham Canty on Cork's 2010 All-Ireland: ‘We didn’t win another but it wasn’t for a lack of effort’

A decade on from their last football All-Ireland, Cork great Graham Canty reflects on his greatest day, retirement, and absent friends
Graham Canty on Cork's 2010 All-Ireland: ‘We didn’t win another but it wasn’t for a lack of effort’

PARADISE GAINED: Cork captain Graham Canty shows his delight after the final whistle in the 2010 All-Ireland SFC final. ‘It meant a lot and it was great to win it, but to a certain extent it moves on quickly, and you have to go hard again the following year,’ he says. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile

It's nothing when you say it fast.

Ten years ago today Cork won their last football All-Ireland. Graham Canty collected the cup that September afternoon, and in his own words “a good few things” have happened since.

He hung up his boots, for one.

“That was a huge thing. To stop playing inter-county was grand, really, because you always know you have a finite amount of time to be playing at that level.

“But I was playing adult club football for nearly 20 years, so when that came to an end, it was a defining point. With the county you could tell you weren’t up to it any more, as simple as that. The decision to step away was grand.

“But having played football since the age of eight or nine with the club... every Christmas you’d be thinking of preparing for football in January, or preparing for January over Christmas. And then suddenly you’re heading to Christmas with no football to look forward to afterwards.”

The season shaped the calendar, he points out.

“You could be dreaming, ‘if we got our ducks in a row we could have a crack off it with the club next year’, even though most years even if you got the ducks in a row, you didn’t win anything.

“But that didn’t stop you looking forward. So losing that took adjustment, but you find other things to do.”

The boots?

“I’d say three years later I threw them out.”

Is it hard, then, to reach back 10 years? To recapture how urgent it was, the mission to win an All-Ireland?

“It’s not, because I can remember what my thoughts were afterwards.

“The reason I remember that is I spoke to Dr Con (Murphy) about it, probably around Christmas time that year.

I can remember him saying at that stage, ‘what would we have done next year if we hadn’t won it?’, and I said: ‘Con, we’d do the same and we’d go hard again’.

“I don’t think anything would have changed hugely, and I don’t think I changed a lot in what I did the couple of years afterwards. I went as hard as I could and if that was good enough, that was good enough.

“And if it wasn’t, you were beaten by a better side: You learned and you moved on. Could you package it away like that? You could, and you had to, because otherwise it’d eat away at you.

“Now, it’s a process at the same time. People hear about ‘the process’ all the time and probably think it’s a cliche, but it’s true. It means incremental improvement. Even if you’re at the top you still have to improve incrementally. Someone is always after you in the chasing pack.

“We tried to do that every year, to improve individually and to improve as a group. It’s as simple as that.

“It meant a lot and it was great to win it, but to a certain extent it moves on quickly, and you have to go hard again the following year and so on.

“We didn’t win another All-Ireland, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort, certainly.”

Cork were seasoned by 2010, and their All-Ireland opponents didn’t have the same level of experience.

“I think experience counts for something alright, because it means composure, and composure counts for something in any final or big game. You’re trying to make sure you perform to the best of your ability, or as close as you can to the best of your ability.

“Mind you, Down weren’t far off beating us. Another day it could have gone their way, but for us after 70 minutes we just had to be ahead.”

One of his strongest memories of the day isn’t the final whistle or collecting the cup. It’s sitting on the bench.

“In the first half I remember sitting next to Colm O’Neill, who was as relaxed as anything, as he usually is.

“He was saying, ‘we’ll get on now and we’ll make a difference’ — everything he was saying was relaxed and positive.

“And after the game I remember meeting a few people from Bantry. That stays with me. It meant a lot.”

Cork captain Graham Canty and selector Terry O'Neill, both from Bantry, raise the Sam Maguire Cup on its arrival to Bantry town square in 2010.
Cork captain Graham Canty and selector Terry O'Neill, both from Bantry, raise the Sam Maguire Cup on its arrival to Bantry town square in 2010.

Not all the changes in the last decade have been positive. Time can take a toll, after all.

“We’re missing a couple from the group, Kieran O’Connor and Terry O’Neill.

“We’ve lost two people in those 10 years. Terry passed away last November, and we lost Kieran at a very young age recently, which many people will know about.

That’s very tough on his family in Aghada, obviously. They’re the people you’re always thinking of. How they’re managing, trying to get on with life. It’s not easy for them, that goes without saying.”

On their way to glory that September they beat Dublin in an All-Ireland semi-final, another showcase for Cork’s experience.

Did Canty foresee Dublin becoming the dominant side in the game?

“Not at the time. Donegal came and conquered after that, for instance, so I didn’t see Dublin becoming the animal they would become.

“Even then they were a good side and they were developing, but so were a lot of sides.

“What they’ve become now, though, the quality, the system, the process...

“You haven’t heard of a player two years ago and then he’s a double All-Star. That’s frightening.”

Is that the other side of ‘the process’ — the ability to create players ready for senior inter-county from their first day in the jersey?

“I think so. Dublin come with players that you’ll see early in the league, and they get better and better in the league, they’ll play in five of seven league games, say, 60-plus minutes each time, and you’re saying, ‘this guy’s very good’.

“Then they start the majority of the Championship games in the year and end up as an All-Star.

“People think those players come from nowhere. They haven’t. The process they have, the system, that’s what produces them, and they’re well primed there.

“I’d imagine their in-house games are savage and competitive, and they just develop massive talent.”

Cork captain Graham Canty lifts the Sam Maguire Cup. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile
Cork captain Graham Canty lifts the Sam Maguire Cup. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile

In general he feels Gaelic football is in a good place, even if he doesn’t follow the game slavishly.

“If something’s on I’ll watch it but I wouldn’t stay home on a Saturday or Sunday just to watch it.

“What I like is that the rules are being tinkered with slightly to make the game more appealing.

“I don’t know if they have it right yet but I certainly don’t see why you’d stick with the tried and trusted and then just hope that that works.

“What’s certainly true now is that you have to be a complete player no matter where you’re playing on the field, because if you’re playing the full 70 minutes you’ll be asked some very hard questions.

“If you’re starting at corner-back, for instance, you’re guaranteed that for a good 15 or 20 minutes you won’t be inside in the corner at all — you’ll be moved or dragged out, or you’ll go yourself, so you have to be a complete player.

“In general I think there’s more kicking coming into the game the last couple of years, more long-range scoring, fewer defensive teams. Dublin and Mayo are good examples of that — Dublin are the best in the country and they’ll go toe to toe with you, broadly 15 on 15.

“And some teams will take them on 15 on 15 , even if they end up paying a price for that. It was refreshing to see Cork take them on a couple of years ago, more or less 15 on 15.

“They came up short, but everyone has come up short against Dublin.”

The Bantry man has no aspirations to coaching and managing.

“Not now. I was involved with the (Cork) football plan because it was time-based, it was a matter of getting it done. I was delighted to be asked and to contribute to it, but it was finite.

I don’t have any serious plans for getting involved in managing and coaching — my local club is Éire Óg so I help out with the underage primarily because my own kids are involved, and it’s good to give back.

“I got a load of enjoyment out of the game, after all.

“I’d like to give something back to Bantry but I’m just too far away to do that. Making training in Éire Óg, five minutes away, is challenging enough.”

Ten years. Five minutes. It’s nothing when you say it fast.

Teams and scores on a historic day

Cork 0-16 Down 0-15

All-Ireland SFC final, Croke Park, September 19, 2010.

Scorers for Cork: Daniel Goulding 0-9 (4 frees, 3 45s), Donncha O’Connor 0-5 (3 frees), Paul Kerrigan, Ciarán Sheehan 0-1 each.

Scorers for Down: Paul McComiskey, Martin Clarke (frees), Danny Hughes (0-3 each); Kevin McKernan, Peter Fitzpatrick, Mark Poland, Benny Coulter, John Clarke, Ronan Murtagh (0-1 each)

CORK: Alan Quirke; Eoin Cadogan, Michael Shields (captain), Ray Carey; Noel O’Leary, John Miskella, Paudie Kissane; Alan O’Connor, Aidan Walsh; Ciarán Sheehan, Pearse O’Neill, Paddy Kelly; Daniel Goulding, Donncha O’Connor, Paul Kerrigan.

Subs for Cork: Nicholas Murphy for Alan O’Connor (35); Graham Canty for Paudie Kissane (42); Colm O’Neill for Pearse O’Neill (55), Derek Kavanagh for Nicholas Murphy (66), John Hayes for Paul Kerrigan (69).

DOWN: Brendan McVeigh; Daniel McCartan, Dan Gordon, Damian Rafferty; Declan Rooney, Kevin McKernan, Conor Garvey; Peter Fitzpatrick, Kalum King; Daniel Hughes, Mark Poland, Benny Coulter (captain); Paul McComiskey, John Clarke, Martin Clarke.

Subs for Down: Conor Maginn for John Clarke (45); Ronan Murtagh for Paul McComiskey (55); Benny McArdle for Damian Rafferty (58); Aidan Brannigan for Callum King (65); Conor Laverty for Mark Poland (66).

Referee:

David Coldrick (Meath).

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