Galway’s 2017 All-Ireland-winning manager Micheál Donoghue has said the retiring Joe Canning “set the standard” every time he took to the field.
During his four years in charge, Donoghue said there was a notable difference in the level reached at training when Canning was present.
“Every time he took the field he set the standard, he was the standard,” Donoghue told the Irish Examiner.
“When you are talking to young fellas and trying to encourage them to do the right thing, Joe was the perfect example as he always trained how he played. That is the biggest compliment I can pay to him.
“Whenever he trained or whenever he came back from an injury, you could see the whole standard of training and everything in the group environment go up one or two levels. That is what he brought, that is the standard he set.
“He recreated himself over the years as a forward, like all great players do, and he won all the accolades of the game, but how he prepared is what marked him out. He just always aspired to be the best he could be every time he took to the training ground.
“He set that standard for the lads and was a great example for the young players who came into the panel, for them to see one of the top players do that and lead by example every time he went out there. When he wasn’t there, you would notice the difference to when he was there.”
Expanding on his comment that the 32-year-old “recreated himself over the years”, Donoghue said the five-time All-Star winner “adapted seamlessly” to whatever forward role he was assigned.
“He started full-forward, then came out the field. In later years, he was becoming a provider and creator as much as a scorer.
“He was a team player and that was so evident last weekend where, I guarantee you, the scoring record would have been to the back of his mind. He kept bringing others into play and it was never about him. That’s testament to the man he is.”
Donoghue revealed himself “shocked” when he heard the news. But the more he reflected on the injuries Canning has had to overcome in recent years, including two “career-threatening” setbacks from Donoghue’s own time involved, the more he understood and respected Joe’s decision.
The season before Galway’s 2017 breakthrough, the Portumna man came within a centimetre of tearing his hamstring off the bone during the first half of the All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Tipperary, while in 2019 there was the groin injury that saw him miss most of the Championship.
“The determination and pure desire to get back was just incredible on his part and that is testament to the man he is. He worked so hard, fought so hard to get back. He was so diligent in how he went about each recovery.
“I think [he’ll retire happy]. He won everything there is to win, he has all the accolades you can get in the game, so I’m sure he’ll be content with that.”