Hurling and camogie

Galway's Colm Callanan a sure-bet for All-Ireland selection

Kilkenny's TJ Reid drives the sliotar past goalkeeper Colm Callanan in this year's Leinster Final
Paul Keane

Three years ago, Colm Callanan was part of Galway’s panel for the All-Ireland Senior Hurling final replay though by the experienced goalkeeper’s own admission, he was merely a passenger.

Called in less than 48 hours before throw-in to provide cover on the bench following the injury withdrawal of regular net minder James Skehill, he never saw a minute of action as Galway lost to Kilkenny.

How things have changed for the Kinvara man who, in Galway’s first final since, will be the established number one when they take on Kilkenny again on September 6 at Croke Park.

In fact, there’s a good chance that his terrific display of shot stopping in Sunday’s rip-roaring semi-final win over Tipperary has already secured him a maiden All-Star award.

Skehill, an All-Star nominee himself three years ago, is the man warming the bench these days and, disappointingly for him, he looks set to go through an entire Championship campaign without seeing a minute of action himself.

Those are the swings and roundabouts which are all part of the goalkeeping trade as Callanan has found out.

“I wasn’t even on the panel in 2012 and only came in because James was injured a couple of nights before the final,” said Callanan. “I have no real recollection of that day because it just didn’t go our way and, personally, I wasn’t involved with the panel really or that’s the way it felt to me anyhow.

“I only got the call to come in after the last training session before the game, the Friday night.

“I suppose it was strange. But, look, when a county manager calls you in the hour of need, what are you going to do only go in and see if you can help? I didn’t have anything to do other than just be there as it panned out.”

Callanan made it clear that while he is ahead of Skehill now in the Galway pecking order and likely to stay there for the biggest game of the season, they rely totally upon each other.

In fact, the gym instructor recently posted a series of photographs detailing the incredible shape he has helped Skehill to get into this summer. In effect, Callanan has been actively helping Skehill to inch closer to the number one jersey though he doesn’t see it that way.

“The two of us push ourselves and each other very hard, that’s the way we’ll always be about it,” said Callanan. “We’re good friends too and we try to get on with it and make each other hurl the best we can, that’s the way we have to be to make it work.

“Myself and James have swapped the jersey over the years. I’m there since 2007 so he’s had a go at it, I’ve had a run at it and that’s the way it’s been. I’m there at the minute but I’m nothing without him pushing me and I genuinely mean that. And that’s the way we need to be if Galway are to be successful.”

All around the Galway camp there are signs of individuals pushing themselves to the maximum as they chase an All-Ireland title breakthrough, from Callanan and Skehill to manager Anthony Cunningham himself who boldly declared after the Leinster final that they would regroup to reach the MacCarthy Cup final.

Galway attacker Jason Flynn admitted that Cunningham’s words were picked up on by the players who drew inspiration from them before bouncing back with big wins over Cork and Tipperary.

“Some of the boys mentioned the next day at training what Anthony had said,” recalled Flynn. “It maybe did trickle down, that kind of confidence in us and it just shows the passion that Anthony has for it. Even since Sunday, people have said to me that the look on his face going in at half-time was just pure intensity, it showed how well up for it he was. He’s been like the 16th man there for us.”

It’s just a year since Galway invited nominations from clubs for potential alternatives to Cunningham. In the end, they stuck with tried and trusted and they are now looking forward to a second All-Ireland final in four seasons.

“His attitude is infections and it’s definitely filtered onto the pitch to us,” continued Flynn. “He likes to do a bit of shouting along the line during the games, which is no harm. Sometimes we can be a bit lazy and need that. It does give you an extra edge when you’re going for the ball.”

Hurling and camogie

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