Joe Canning had a great record against Cork hurling teams

The retiring Galway legend might have lost a classic in 2008, but he always had the edge on the Rebels
Joe Canning had a great record against Cork hurling teams

Galway captain Joe Canning celebrates scoring his side's first goal against Cork in the 2006 minor clash. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

JOE Canning, who has bowed out of inter-county hurling as an all-time great, had a knack of breaking Cork hearts, even if his famous introduction to senior hurling in 2008 saw the Rebels pull off a stunning victory with 14 men.

In that qualifier 13 seasons ago, Canning caused absolute wreck in the first half, which resulted in Donal Óg Cusack being red-carded and Diarmuid O'Sullivan replaced. Canning's tally come full-time was 2-12 of Galway's 2-15, 1-5 from play, but Joe Deane and Cathal Naughton combined for seven points from play themselves and the Rebels had 23 points on board to progress.

The charged atmosphere at Semple Stadium, with the victorious Leesiders carried off the pitch by the ecstatic supporters, was as memorable as Canning's epic effort in his debut senior campaign. The Portumna genius had a number of opportunities to exact revenge in the seasons that followed.

In a dour struggle in 2009 he saw off a Denis Walsh managed Cork unit in Thurles again and Galway landed the league at their expense in 2010. 

Cork's Eoin Dillon tackles Galway's Joe Canning during the 2009 Allianz League final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork's Eoin Dillon tackles Galway's Joe Canning during the 2009 Allianz League final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

A year later, at the Gaelic Grounds, the Rebels were routed and Canning executed an audacious no-look reverse handpass for good measure.

In 2012, in Jimmy Barry-Murphy's first summer back at the helm, Cork lost an All-Ireland semi-final to Canning and co, while in the '15 quarter-final, JBM's last outing as bainisteoir, the Rebels were blown away. 

From there, aside from a couple of league wins for Cork, the counties never collided. Cork lost semi-finals in '17 and '18 when Canning and Galway were at their peak, so we never got an All-Ireland final showdown.

There was an All-Ireland club joust in 2006 when the Joe show cost Newtownshandrum the trophy in Croke Park. He was just 17-year-old but netted an early goal and was the designated free-taker. Portumna ground out a 2-8 to 1-6 win, Canning chipping in with 1-6.

Joe Canning, Portumna, in action against Maurice Fitzgerald, Newtownshandrum, in the 2006 AIB All-Ireland Club Senior Hurling Championship final. Picture: Damien Eagers/SPORTSFILE
Joe Canning, Portumna, in action against Maurice Fitzgerald, Newtownshandrum, in the 2006 AIB All-Ireland Club Senior Hurling Championship final. Picture: Damien Eagers/SPORTSFILE

He took on Cork teams quite a bit in those early days.

As a minor he was an All-Ireland finalist three times in a row, winning two titles, and Cork were seen off at the semi-final stage on each occasion. The 2006 loss was the most galling, 2-12 to 0-16, Canning held to a lone score from play, but it was the goal that proved the difference.

He continued that trend in 2007, when a loaded Cork U21 unit featuring Shane O'Neill, Patrick Horgan, Colm O'Neill, Eoin Cadogan, Naughton, Pa Cronin and Ken O'Halloran, were caught by a late free to force extra-time in an All-Ireland semi-final. The Tribe and Canning cut loose in the additional 20 minutes, and he helped himself to 0-7, five from play and two sidelines.

In recent seasons, we were watching Joe Canning from afar, admiring the magnificence of his 2015 Leinster final goal against Kilkenny, his soaring point to beat Tipp in the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final, and his four sidelines in Croke Park last winter.

Admired and respected by hurling supporters in every corner of Cork.

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