A FEW weeks ago in the quarter-final of the Leinster SHC between Galway and Wexford, we were treated to some magic.
Wexford’s Rory Jacob bore down on Colm Callanan in the Galway goal and struck shot back across the Galway keeper, headed for the top corner. A goal was exactly what Wexford needed at that stage but Callanan’s reaction was instantaneous – the hurley came up, the ball was tipped, out wide for a 65.
“As good a save as I’ve ever seen,” said Wexford captain Diarmuid Lyng, and yet, says Colm, not the best save he has ever made.
“It would be up there, certainly, but there was another one, about four years ago, against Portumna – Joe Canning, inside in Loughrea. I’ll always remember that one.
“He was coming in from my right, shot across me up high, I just got the tip of the hurl to it – I remember glancing back and seeing it go just outside the post.”
Callanan didn’t even begin life as a goalkeeper. With his club, Kinvara, he was always an outfield player, a wing-forward, but in his late teens that all changed.
“I played a few games there alright at U21 when I was younger, too small for outfield, but I was always known as a forward. I was about 18 when I was asked to go into goals for the Kinvara senior team, been there since.”
A few years ago there were four forwards who had togged out as keeper or sub-keeper for the county at underage – Eugene Cloonan (won U-21 All-Ireland while still a minor), Kevin Broderick, Alan Kerins and Mark Kerins.
“I didn’t mind it,” says Colm, “Especially if it meant playing with the club seniors. I was taking over from Pat Costello, who had been the Galway senior keeper in 1994; there was no-one else in the club for the position anyway, no-one else interested.
“I was put in there, stayed there, and I see myself now as a goalkeeper.”
Then again, he didn’t lick it from the road either – it was in the blood.
“My father only dabbled in hurling but my mother played camogie. She was from Killimordaly, Mary Daly, played with Athenry, captained them to an All-Ireland final appearance; she played with Galway and with Connacht as well. My sister Roisin was on the Galway panel last year, another goalkeeper, as is Colleen, the youngest of us at 15, though she sometimes plays wing-forward. All my mother’s five brothers were goalkeepers, her sister was a goalkeeper, so that probably explains a lot.”
It was in his new position with Kinvara that Colm was spotted as a potential number one for the county senior team, but it wasn’t by Ger Loughnane, the Galway manager at the time – it was by an old colleague of Ger’s with Clare, Tony Considine.
“It was a couple of years ago, I had been asked up to Kinvara to see if I could help them out of relegation trouble and I saw this fella in action. I was talking to Ger and to Brendan Lynskey (Galway selector) one day and I said to them, ‘Ye haven’t the best goalkeeper in Galway at all – he’s over in Kinvara.’” So he was, and the break soon came.
This Sunday, Galway and Colm face Offaly.
“They’re a proud county, proud hurlers, take their hurling very seriously, always a hard team to beat. One things sticks out in my mind from the league game was the way they were willing to run at you.
“They ran at us at every opportunity – I think I faced about four 21-yard frees that day, and Fergal Moore took another ball off the line. We were under pressure, they ran at us all day long, no fear (after trailing heavily, Offaly came back to within four points). They’re huge men, and they have a couple of stout defenders as well.
“Just look at their full-forward line – Shane Dooley, Joe Bergin, Brian Carroll; they will cause serious problems for any full-back line. We know what we’re up against, we know what’s coming down the line.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved