Canning backs Conor Cooney to make a difference for Tribesmen

By John Harrington

Joe Canning has backed Conor Cooney to be a difference-maker for the Tribesmen in this year’s Championship.

The St. Thomas’ man scored 1-10, 1-5 of it from play, in their Leinster SHC first round victory over Carlow last weekend and seems to be high on confidence at the moment.

Now 31, Cooney is a very experienced player and his ability has never been in question, but he hasn’t always been as consistent for Galway as he has for his club.

Canning believes if he could hurl to his full potential in the maroon jersey throughout this year’s championship then he’ll bring a new dimension to the team.

“Conor, for me, is hands down the best club hurler in Galway for the last six, seven, eight years,” says Canning.

“Nobody can touch him in Galway, club-wise. To be honest, he probably didn’t reach that height at inter-county level over the last number of years and he’d probably say the same himself.

“But at club level nobody can get near him in Galway club hurling. He’s brilliant for St. Thomas’. This year he seems to have come straight in and continued his club form with the county. And Galway need that. Galway need Conor Cooney playing well. In 2017 he was very good for us.

“Conor is faster than he looks and he’s good in the air. He’s a big man, he’s six foot two or three. He’s a confidence player. I think being on the frees is good for him as well. If he can start well on that it’s always a big plus for him.

“And if he can perform for Galway this year it would be massive. He scored 1-5 on Sunday and is worth a couple of points every day to you. I’m just hopeful that he continues that form.

“If you add him in to Conor Whelan, Brian Concannon, Cathal Mannion, Joey Cooney, Tom Monaghan, Johnny Glynn, Evan Niland, Deccie McLoughlin…and there’s a few more there you can add in and out the whole time.”

It’ll be interesting to see what sort of impact Johnny Glynn will have now that he has returned to the Galway panel.

A key figure in their 2017 All-Ireland winning team, he hasn’t featured on the panel since 2019 after a move to New York.

Johnny Glynn has returned to the Galway hurling panel after an absence of five years. 

Five years in a big gap at the highest level, but Canning believes his former team-mate’s return is a big boost for the panel.

“Johnny has been playing inter-county for the last few years with New York so that’s one side of things, albeit it football, and he was playing a bit of hurling with New York as well.

“But he’s been playing club championship with Ardrahan last year as well. There’s no fear of Johnny physically. No fear of him whatsoever. Physically he’s always in great shape. Mentally he’s a very strong character. It’s very hard to get the better of Johnny Glynn mentally.

“So I don’t think he has any fear. The only fear was the first touch and stuff like that. Maybe the little bit of match sharpness moreso than anything for inter-county. But supposedly the last number of weeks he’s been training really well. They went to a camp to Portugal and he was flying out there.

“And Johnny was never known really for his unbelievable skills either. He was winning hard ball and laying it off to guys and creating moreso than scoring. So if you get a guy like that that can win ball and lay it off to guys like Whelo or Brian Concannon around him or Deccie McLoughlin, that’s a huge weapon to have.

“Hopefully he’ll get a chance to play at some stage, but I don’t know what way Henry (Shefflin) sees using him. I can only see it as a plus.”

Does Canning feel like his native county are equipped to do better than they did in the first two years of Henry Shefflin’s reign when they were beaten at the Leinster Final and All-Ireland semi-final stages in both years?

“Realistically they were very unlucky last year in the Leinster Final,” says Canning. “The last second goal. You’d never even dream of it happening really. And even then against Limerick at stages when the ball hit off the crossbar and Padraig Mannion flicked it and if he didn’t flick it it would have been cleared and he actually flicked it back to Aaron Gillane for a goal that changed the game.

“Those little things…they neeed a bit of luck. Every team needs a small bit of luck. Limerick had the luck yesterday when Byrnes mis-hit free ended up in the back of the net and brought them back into it. I think they need to try to win a Leinster Championship.

“That will give you a bit of momentum and confidence but it’s easier said than done. But, for me, that’s your first and foremost. Try to get to a Leinster Final and win a Leinster Championship.

“If I was playing that’s what I’d be aiming for and whatever happens after that happens after that. They need a bit of confidence.”