A glorious year keeps Seamus Callanan guessing, writes Larry Ryan
His 2016 will be forever embossed by an All-Ireland final masterclass. But every flip of the calendar unwraps new treats.
He’s just been promoted to Tipperary vice-captain. On Sunday he’ll tog for Munster for just the second time. Tomorrow week, he’ll scrub up for the RTÉ Sports Person of the Year event, where he’s nominated for the big gong.
Hey, he even fielded a semi-apology from Jackie Tyrrell.
Now that really was above and beyond, Callanan insists.
Referring this week to his shuddering tackle on the Drom-Inch attacker in the 2009 All-Ireland final, the now-retired Tyrrell admitted it’s not a clip that spins on his personal highlight reel. “I’m still a bit embarrassed by that. It’s not a regret but I’d rather not have done it. I’d like to think I was a physical player but fair, and probably that day I stepped over the line a bit.”
If that was confessional, consider this absolution. “It was definitely a bit sore. I remember that alright,” Callanan winces. “But, no, the only bad feeling I had after that day was that we got beat. I don’t think there was any malice in it. I never held it against Jackie anyway.”
The odd tiptoe across the line aside, the Tipp-Kilkenny rivalry has elevated sportsmanship over gamesmanship, lifted standards rather than dragged one another down. Callanan agrees: “They play hard and tough, but fair. There’s a natural respect between all the hurling counties. Everyone trains wicked hard all year to be competitive but there can be only one winner. We all do whatever it takes to win, but never in a nasty nature.”
That lack of rancour makes provincial duty an easy pleasure. Callanan’s Munster face Ulster in the semi-final on Sunday and Anthony Daly’s panel have gathered regularly over recent weeks in Dr Morris Park in Thurles.
“I’ve only played once before, back in 2008. Between injuries and things, I haven’t had a chance to play it since. I’m looking forward to it. It’s nice to meet all the lads from the different counties. The training has a friendly feel to it. Because you’re trying to get to know people. But when the ball is thrown in, every inter-county player is competitive and they want to win.”
Ideal world, he’d try carve a box office slot for the games in kinder conditions. “You can’t have it going on during the championship but having it on fairly soon after would definitely enhance the profile. You’d have good weather. You’d be on top fitness. And people might still have the buzz of an All-Ireland final to give them a lift to go see it.”
The buzz of his final lingers. A 13-point personal showcase. A nine-point deliverance.
“There’s massive satisfaction. Everyone wants to go out and hurl the game of their life on All-Ireland final day, but I think that every Tipperary player that day could walk off the field feeling very happy and proud of their performance. Everyone can look back and reflect and say ‘I gave a great performance on All- Ireland final day’ and that’s something special.”
In 2010, he reported for the late shift to hammer a couple of final nails in Kilkenny. This year he was the scaffold. “We had ended a bit of a famine in 2010 so it was a very special day as well. But when you’re starting on the team and one of the main guys, it’s obviously a bit more special.” Appointment as new skipper Padraic Maher’s deputy is no fresh load.
“I feel fierce privileged to be asked. It’s not something that would weigh me down. We’re lucky, we have a full panel of lads who are showing leadership every night.
“It’s not down to four or five guys to drive it on. Everyone drives it on.”
If Tipp enjoyed anything this year as much as September payoff, it might have been shutting down a tired narrative; their supposed finish line phobia. Wriggling past Galway shrugged off that monkey.
“I don’t think we ever listened to any of the nonsense outside the group that we couldn’t win a tight game. We just didn’t agree with it. We always believed in our own ability. We never would have let that get to us at all.
“Galway, in fairness, put it up to us. Galway are a fantastic team. They’ll be one of the teams to beat this year if we’re going to be successful. So to beat them by a point is a very good win.” The lap of honour will continue in gladrags in Montrose.
“It’ll be a great night. To be up against the likes of Conor McGregor and Carl Frampton, Annalise Murphy, these people. It’s amazing to be able to be in their presence. To be recognised among professional athletes is brilliant and I’m just thrilled with it.”
The local glory parade hasn’t entirely run its course either.
“I enjoy it. Unfortunately, we had a lot of years where nobody was looking for the autograph.
“So anything we do, going around visiting kids and that, it’s all brilliant. When we were their age, we’d love it if people were coming around doing the same for us, so it’s great to be able to give something back.”
The 2016 GAA Interprovincial semi-finals take place this weekend. Fixture times have been amended due to the funeral of Ulster GAA Secretary, Danny Murphy.
The Leinster v Connacht hurling semi throws in on Saturday, 10 December, at 2.45pm at MacDonagh Park, Nenagh. And the Leinster v Connacht football semi-final takes place at Parnell Park, Dublin on Saturday at 6pm.
The two Munster v Ulster clashes have been moved to Sunday. The hurling semi-final is in Semple Stadium, Thurles at 1.45pm, while the football clash is fixed for Parnell Park at 2pm.
The CCCC will meet on Sunday evening to determine the dates and times for the Interprovincial Finals.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved