Galway great Joe Canning retires: 'No one in the history of hurling struck a sliotar cleaner'

One of the greats of the game, Canning was the championship's top scorer of all time, surpassing Henry Shefflin's record in last weekend's qualifier defeat to Waterford.
Galway great Joe Canning retires: 'No one in the history of hurling struck a sliotar cleaner'

Joe Canning of Galway scores his 8th point of the game, making him the all-time top scorer in senior hurling championship history during the defeat to Waterford at the weekend. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Galway great Joe Canning has confirmed his retirement in the wake of the westerners' exit from the All-Ireland hurling championship.

The 32-year-old informed his team-mates of his departure after Saturday's All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Waterford and broke the news publicly this afternoon.

Speaking to media as a Bord Gais Energy #HurlingToTheCore ambassador, former Hurler of the Year Canning said he has reached the end of his inter-county career though will continue to play for his club Portumna.

Canning struck nine points against Waterford to become the Championship's all-time leading scorer, the last act of a senior inter-county career that began in 2008 and culminated with 2017's All-Ireland success.

Speaking on national radio earlier today, Canning kicked to touch on the retirement issue though clarified hours later that he has in fact called it quits.

"That's it, finished with Galway now," confirmed Canning. "I told the boys after in the dressing-room, that was it, so have to keep my word a bit on that one.

"I will keep playing with Portumna but that's me finished with Galway."

Canning said that various injuries picked up this year and a number of surgeries in recent seasons were factors in his decision. On Saturday, he suffered a wrist injury following a strike which resulted in the dismissal of Waterford's Conor Gleeson.

"I was humming and hawing about kind of saying it publicly," said Canning of his retirement. "But then I was talking to my brother and we said I probably should have said it publicly, cut out all this (speculation).

"There has been a lot of people wondering would I, wouldn't I, just to end all that.

"It's injuries and stuff like that. I had a couple of fairly serious ones over the years and even this year alone I tore a hamstring after the Waterford league game and didn't realise it for a few weeks.

"Just a little nick, a partial tear in my thumb as well. My finger, my heel, yeah, there are four or five injuries alone this year, niggly ones. Yeah, it wasn't getting any easier for me.

"I just feel the time is right. I don't want to stay around too long either. I think that is a bad way as well, just being there for the sake of it.

"As I said to the lads after the game, Saturday wasn't the way I was planning to tell them. That's just it, life moves on."

Asked if it was an emotional scene in the dressing-room, having already lost the game too, Canning said: "Yeah, it was a bit raw I suppose, just the defeat moreso than anything."

Canning planned to retire at the end of this year anyhow.

"Yeah, as I said to the boys, I didn't think it was going to be Saturday, I thought it might be later on in the year. You were kind of hoping August time, August 22, All-Ireland, that's your kind of dream, isn't it? But that's life, life moves on, that's just the way it is.

"Yeah, I am content with it. It wasn't a thing just because we lost that I said, 'That's it'. As I said to the boys, I wanted to say it because we will never be in that group again."

Writing about the five-time All-Star in the Irish Examiner at the weekend, columnist PM O'Sullivan predicted the retirement as Canning finished his time in maroon as the game's most prolific scorer. 

"The same moment saw him depart, in all likelihood, the Galway jersey. Thirty-three next October, he has given all and took some of the finest scores ever seen," O'Sullivan wrote, before remembering some of those iconic moments.

"So many instances and so many days… Canning’s goal in 2015’s Leinster final remains something else altogether. Anticipating and anticipating the drop of a long impromptu clearance, catching and pivoting and striking in one seamless movement, the knot that stayed a ribbon.

"Even the net seemed astonished, as the Bolshoi Ballet met the fields of Portumna.

"That goal was liquid instinct, Wimbledon genius transplanted to Croke Park. His goal in 2012’s drawn All-Ireland final, one hardly less indelible? Ice in the head.

"He ran off James Regan’s incision, taking a popped handpass. Then Canning bevelled across the Kilkenny defence, feinting without hesitating, heading for the one spot where he could only goal, via master blaster effort. Once there, he surely netted, Superbowl genius transplanted to Croke Park."

Speaking on the Irish Examiner GAA Show this week, former Galway manager Cyril Farrell predicted a few of Shane O'Neill's charges may move on: 

“That team has given great service. They won their All-Ireland, people say they should have won more, but you'll find a couple of those lads will go themselves.

“They are still great club hurlers, but that’s different to county.

"The last two games have shown they weren’t at the pace."

Added O'Sullivan:

"No one in the history of the game struck a sliotar cleaner than Joe Canning."

Speaking alongside Farrell on this week's Irish Examiner GAA podcast, Mark Landers paid tribute to Canning's contribution to club and county:

"I saw him playing for Portumna when he was a kid, playing against Newtownshandrum.

"I won’t say he carried the Portumna team but he was the man taking the frees at 16/17 years of age, he was the fella getting all the scores.

"Joe Canning has been a brilliant, brilliant player and a lovely guy."

Joe Canning’s trophy cabinet

One All-Ireland SHC medal: 2017

Three Leinster SHC medals: 2012, 2017, 2018

Two National League medals: 2010, 2017

Hurler of the Year: 2017

Young Hurler of the Year: 2008

Five All-Star awards: 2008, 2009, 2012, 2017, 2018

One All-Ireland U21HC medal: 2007

Two All-Ireland MHC medals: 2004, 2005

All-time hurling championship top-scorer: 27-485 (566)

Four All-Ireland Club SHC medals: 2006, 2008, 2009, 2014

Five Galway SHC medals: 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2013

One Fitzgibbon Cup medal: 2007 (Limerick Institute of Technology).

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