Declan Fanning knew Seamus Callanan was marked out for greatness from the moment he was left out of the starting team for the 2010 All-Ireland senior hurling final.
Rather than sulk about his omission, Callanan delivered a stirring speech to his teammates, including current selector Fanning, and vowed to finish the job against Kilkenny when introduced at Croke Park.
Callanan, 22 at the time, got his chance with a quarter of an hour remaining and down the home straight, the Drom & Inch hitman lanced two superb points from play.
Since then, Callanan has taken his game to a whole new level and he’s been nominated for the Hurler of the Year award in each of the last two seasons.
Ahead of Sunday’s Munster SHC quarter-final against Cork, Callanan is Tipp’s ‘go-to’ man yet again, although he’s coming in relatively cold after missing the vast majority of the Allianz Hurling League campaign through injury.
Callanan was sidelined with finger and hamstring problems and made his comeback in the final Division 1A group fixture against Cork, before enduring a frustrating afternoon against Clare at Cusack Park.
But Fanning has watched Callanan up close and personal in the weeks since the Ennis setback and believes he’s ready to explode at the weekend.
One thing that Fanning certainly won’t be calling into question is Callanan’s strength of character, having witnessed how the ace forward took that devastating news six years ago.
Fanning recalls: “It was in the dressing room on the Thursday night before the All-Ireland.
“The team was after being named and we all went in.
“Like we did every Thursday night before a big game we would have spoken together and Seamus spoke that night.
“It would have been very easy for him to have his head dropped in the corner and make it all about him, but he didn’t, it was all about the team.
“You just felt something was going to happen with the way he spoke that night. And he came on that day and he was excellent.”
With Cork expected to adopt a sweeper system on Sunday, Callanan may find space at a premium.
But Tipp will seek to isolate the man with a history of scoring goals against Cork.
Fanning was a former roommate of Callanan’s during his playing days and quickly recognised the lethal attacker was something special.
Fanning says: “You could just see from the very minute he came in he was a very confident player.
“I wouldn’t say cocky, but really, really confident in his own ability. I think he loves being a central player and once he got that central position, he took on a leadership role.
“He’s a very, very professional guy on and off the pitch. He looks after himself.”
The perceived problem from a Tipp perspective is the unwanted habit of losing tight games late on from winning positions.
It happened against Galway in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final and in the league meetings with Waterford, Kilkenny, and Clare this year.
And Fanning admits that it’s something that has been discussed in the Tipp camp.
He revealed: “Yeah, I think you would be very foolish not to talk about it and leave it to chance.
“Whatever we’ve done in the league we’ve looked at very closely, good or bad, and we’ve tried to work on everything.
“That’s something we have been trying to work on — getting the lads to see out games, getting the lads to perform for 70, 75 minutes as much as they can.
“Look, we’ll try to win any game, tight or by as much as we can. I think it’s about the lads performing for 70 minutes more than even winning or losing.
“We try to focus on the performance, and if we get a full 70-minute performance then we should come out on the right side of results.”
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