Ollie Canning expecting fireworks in Sunday's All-Ireland Minor Hurling final
Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship
OLLIE Canning has said Sunday's All-Ireland Minor Hurling final between Galway and Kilkenny promises to be an absorbing encounter as the Connacht men seek to make it a double-double at Croke Park.
Galway cleaned up at Headquarters last year as the seniors defeated Waterford to capture the Liam MacCarthy Cup, while the minors overcame Cork to take the Irish Press Cup. This year, the minors in maroon must overcome the Cats before their elders take on Limerick.
Canning, who won the All-Ireland Minor Hurling title with Galway in 1994, is this year's Electric Ireland Minor Star awards judge and he is eagerly anticipating Sunday's showdown.
“It promises to be an absorbing encounter,” said the former Portumna stick man.
“Two players to watch out for are the Galway full-forward Donal O'Shea and the Kilkenny midfielder Conor Kelly. Both players have been playing really well so for this year.
“My advice would be to concentrate fully on the grade that you are at, work hard on your skills and your attitude to continuously improve. There is a lot to learn at minor level before you progress to U21 or senior and, remember, it's a combination of your hurling ability and your attitude that will make you successful. Both need to be worked on constantly.”
Canning has also revealed the boost delivered to hurling in the west of the country by last year's double success: “For Galway to make the breakthrough after all those years was such a great feeling for everybody involved in Galway hurling,” he added.
“Galway were close to winning finals on a few occasions during that period, but to finally get over the line was a mixture of exhilaration and relief at the same time. For Galway to make the breakthrough was also really positive for the hurling Championship as this year has been so open, with any number of teams in contention during the year.
“Looking back on the semi-finals, it could have easily been a Cork v Clare final on Sunday and that's how close a number of teams were in this year's Championship.”
Canning also has a clear idea of the root of Galway's current success and what needs to be done to replicate that success in other counties: “Galway have a strong base when it comes to schools and underage hurling in the county,” he said.
“It takes years of work at this level in the hope that you will get 30 players plus at a high enough standard to win an All-Ireland. Hurling counties need to invest at schools' and underage level and have the commitment, enthusiasm and energy to see through a strategy that could take from 10-to-15 years to bear fruit at senior intercounty level.”
The Galway man added: “My involvement at minor level really gave me a taste of what it might be like to go on and play at senior level and represent my county at senior level.
“Minor level was really the stepping stone and a great base to have before I progressed onto the Galway senior panel and that's why I think it's so important for young hurlers on their intercounty hurling journey.”