Joe feeling the strain Ageing Canning acutely aware of bodily limitations after surgery
JOE Canning turned 32 on Sunday and freely admits to “feeling every bit of it now.”
Among the well-wishing messages he received was one that read ‘it’s a pity you’re not 21 again’ and through his initial reaction was to think ‘jeez, I’m getting very old’, he has since decided to take it as a compliment.
Time moves on. Even for seemingly ageless hurlers like Canning.
It’s a struggle to countenance that more than 12 years have passed since he hit 2-12 in Thurles in that virtuoso solo performance on the night Galway exited the Championship to Cork in his maiden Championship summer.
Or even that it’s over 26 months since his late, long-distance, injury-time free fell excruciatingly short of the Canal End goal, depriving Galway of a draw in the 2018 All-Ireland final and a chance to win back-to-back All-Irelands.
That, as it happens, was the last Championship game he started for Galway.
So it’s only to be expected that he’s keen and eager that this year’s competition starts and finishes as planned.
“Being straight up about it there are not many years left in me and that is being 100% honest,” Canning states.
“And we mightn’t even get to the start of it. We’re living in a world of unknown. You take every day as it comes and if you’re lucky enough to play a bit of sport in the next couple of months, great.
“If not, that’s the way it goes. It could be all gone tomorrow.”
In March of last year, Canning tore the adductor longus, a skeletal muscle located in the thigh, off the pubic bone in a collision with Waterford’s Kevin Moran in the League semi-final in Nowlan Park.
It required surgery and precipitated a competitive absence of 83 days, that ended with a late cameo in Parnell Park in which Canning scored two points in Galway’s season-ending defeat to Dublin.
Having suffered a severe hamstring tear in the 2016 All-Ireland semi-final to Tipperary, Canning is now more acutely aware of the limitations of his body than ever.
“No matter what people say, when you get surgery, you’re not the same when you come back,” he says.
“You think you’re the same and people try and fix you but no matter what you do...and it is the same if you break a hurl and you fix it is still not the same as it was before.
“Or if you break a cup and glue it back together or something like that.
“Nothing is ever the same when you try and fix it back together.”
The solace in turning 32 for Canning is knowing he is in good company.
Never before has the age profile of hurling’s best players been so advanced.
Canning, TJ Reid, Patrick Horgan and Seamus Callanan – all now 32 years of age – are among the game’s modern giants and as yet, display no symptoms of sporting mortality.
Indeed, when Canning last put down a full season, 2018, he was arguably unlucky not to win a second successive Hurler of the Year award.
And technically at least, the past few months rest should have done his body good.
“I don’t feel it, (like) I am two years younger or four years younger like that,” he counters.
“I feel my age when I wake up in the morning after matches or after training but that is just part of life.
“I am still sore after training the same as I was the last number of years, stuff like that. It’s getting harder to recover I suppose.”
None of which has apparently changed Canning’s outlook. The seasons fly by and the scars of battle mount up, but the aim remains constant.
“I play sport to compete and it has never changed,” he stresses, “I’m a competitor and want to win as much as possible.
“That is just a simple fact, no matter who you are, if you play sport, you want to win.
“So no matter when I was first playing at 19 or now at 32, I haven’t changed my mindset.
“Winning is what you want to do as a sportsperson.
“That is when you feel good about yourself, that’s when you feel that you have accomplished something. That competitor that is in me is still there.”