Canning has to be star player if Galway are to beat Kilkenny

What a difference a year can make. Thirteen months ago Joe Canning looked a broken man, mentally and physically.

Thurles was the venue and Waterford were the opposition on a day when frustration was the dominant emotion for a lacklustre Galway outfit. Unfit and lacking the necessary back up in a weak looking forward line, Canning looked completely disillusioned. Galway looked completely disillusioned.

Ever since his dramatic Senior debut against Cork in 2008 -scoring 2-12, 1-05 from play- the hopes of an entire County have rested heavily on the shoulders of a very young man. And that was the main problem, teammates, management and supporters expected far too much and it became more about one individual than the team ethos that is professed in any successful set up.

Fast forward to September 2012 and the contrast is vast. An All-Ireland final is on the horizon and Canning looks completely rejuvenated. Physically fit, mentally fresh and displaying a level of maturity and leadership that would be expected from a man with such rich talent.

Ironically the Galway management have brought about this change by focusing on the team make up and improving the players that surround the Portumna man, both by introducing new talent and improving some existing players. They took the pressure off his shoulders with the same simple brief that every player was given, get physically fit, stick to the game plan and do your best for the team.

Faster, stronger and hugely motivated Canning has thrived in 2012, the players around him have fed off his new found confidence and energy and he in turn has thrived from the enthusiasm they have exuded. Joe has shown the way as regards work rate off the ball also and on occasion this year has been found 80 yards from the opposition goal making tackles and turning ball over.

Tomás Mulcahy remarked after the Galway v Cork semi-final that it is foolish for your best finisher to be tracking back so deeply. Mulcahy is wide of the mark though, if other players on the team see their chief scorer prepared to put his body on the line and do his fair share of the donkey work then morale increases and the team becomes stronger mentally.

And that is the genius of the Galway management this year. They have got Canning to do more by actually asking him to do less. For a man that is only 23 years old his medal haul is very impressive but the ultimate honour of a Senior All-Ireland continues to elude him, September the 9th could be his finest hour.

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