Four-time All-Star defender Ollie Canning has insisted there’ll be no gripes in Galway if Austin Gleeson is the player that masterminds an All-Ireland hurling final win for Waterford.
Gleeson seemed likely to face disciplinary action, and a potential one-match ban, after pulling Cork forward Luke Meade’s helmet off his head during the Déise’s semi-final win earlier this month.
But referee James Owens stated in his official report that he was satisfied with his handling of the game, tying the hands of disciplinary chiefs who were reportedly frustrated at not being able to intervene.
Galway were deemed by some to be fortunate also when defender Adrian Tuohy escaped sanction after interfering with Patrick “Bonner” Maher’s helmet during their semi-final.
Reigning Hurler of the Year Gleeson proved with his stunning solo goal against Cork that he’s capable of conjuring a match winning moment though Canning said Galway won’t complain about his presence if the 22-year-old provides another on Sunday.
“No, I don’t think there’s going to be any gripes,” said Canning, older brother of Galway attacker Joe.
“I think the decision has been made and that’s it. At the end of the day, it’s going to be 15 on 15.
“If Galway stick to the process, if they minimise the mistakes and if they perform well enough on the day, they have a great chance of winning. You would say the very same thing for Waterford. I don’t think anyone is going to look back and bring this up again.”
Two Waterford players, Tadhg de Burca and Stephen Bennett, served high profile one-match bans during this year’s Championship following helmet incidents.
De Burca missed the semi-final following a red card for what many considered an innocuous grapple with the face-guard of Wexford’s Harry Kehoe in the quarter-finals at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Canning said that a rule should be brought in to differentiate between types of helmet interference.
“From my point of view, there probably should be different grades of helmet interference,” said Canning. “A blanket [red card] rule is too harsh for some of the incidents that we’ve seen this year. I think they will have to look at it and maybe bring something in, ‘forceful interference’ or something to that effect. I think a blanket rule just brings too much into the net and the red card for some of the incidents that we’ve seen you would have to say is very, very severe.”
Canning isn’t concerned that Sunday’s final could be marred by another helmet/faceguard saga despite a focus on that area now.
“I don’t think so,” said the Portumna man. “The referee and the linesmen and the officials, the same as the players, they’re going to have to play the game that’s in front of them. They can’t be thinking about what happened in the past.”
Canning was part of the Galway team that lost the 2005 All-Ireland final to Kilkenny and the county has lost three more deciders since.
They approach Sunday’s final with one of the most physically powerful teams ever though, with just two of the 18 players used in their semi-final win measuring less than 6ft.
Four of their six forwards are 6ft2in while Joseph Cooney is 6ft4in with Conor Whelan six foot, giving them a huge aerial advantage on the Déise.
“I think from Waterford’s point of view, it’s going to be a totally different set of problems from the Cork forwards,” said Canning, who isn’t convinced Galway have deliberately built a team of incredible hulks.
“I don’t believe they have put too much thought into how big a guy is. They just have a number of really good players who happen to be over 6ft.
“I don’t think there’s too much weight or science behind the fact that Galway have picked bigger players. At the end of the day, if your ball control, your fitness and your mindset aren’t right then you’re not going to make the team and it doesn’t matter how tall or how small you are.”
Ollie Canning was speaking at the launch of the Applegreen All-Ireland hurling 7s tournament which takes place on Saturday and is hosted by the Kilmacud Crokes club in Dublin.
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