SportsJOE's Sportsperson of the Year nominee - Joe Canning 2 years ago

SportsJOE's Sportsperson of the Year nominee - Joe Canning

I know what it looks like. I know the story, I know the characters, and I know the screenshots that will undoubtedly be sent towards this site, but hear me out:

An All-Ireland medal. An All Star award. The GAA–GPA All Star Hurler of the Year award.

A Leinster title. A division 1 league medal. The highest average points scorer in the history of the All-Ireland championship. The second highest scorer in this year's championship. Nine points in the All-Ireland final; 11 points in the semi-final, including the match winner from the sideline. The best interview of the year with Vincent Hogan. A trip to Syria with Unicef.

That's just a list of some of Joe Canning's accomplishments for 2017. How could you not consider him for Sportsperson of the Year?

But how do you rank the achievements? How do you define Sportsperson of the Year? Is it the best athlete of the year or the best sporting person of the year?

Fortunately with Canning, you can make a case for both.

Firstly, there's the sporting achievement. By any conceivable metric, Canning has ticked the boxes.

He has won every available honour with Galway this year when the previous wrap on him was that he was one of the main characters in the conversation of the greatest hurler to never win an All-Ireland.

What changed?

Well they won, naturally putting an end to the conversation, but Canning highlights Galway's increased maturity as a group, their three-point win over Waterford in the division 1 League quarter-final, and a collective sense of ownership among the players as the underpinnings behind their success, but the Tribesmen also benefitted from their second year under new director Micheál Donoghue.

The cast ultimately stayed the same for the production, although Conor Whelan and Conor Cooney both made significant strides as co-stars, and as much as the critics wanted to laud Galway for their more democratic attack, where others thrived around Canning rather than after him, the Portumna forward still led the scoring in all major games.

1-10 in the league quarter-final against Waterford. 0-7, tied with Conor Cooney, in the semi-final against Limerick. 0-9 in the final against Tipperary.

0-9 against Dublin in the Leinster quarter-final, 0-7 in the semi-final against Offaly, 0-10 against Wexford in the final.

0-11 against Tipp in the All-Ireland semi-final. 0-9 against Waterford in the All-Ireland final.

However, over 60% of those scores came from frees. In his interview with Hogan, Canning spoke of the disagreements with his father Sean about the perception versus the reality concerning his game.

He cited the Leinster semi-final win over Offaly as a prime example of a match where he scored just one point from play, but where the team still won by 19 points, with Whelan, Niall Burke and Shane Moloney combining for 16 of Galway's 33 points, which actually represented 59% of Galway's scores from play when you subtracted Canning's six frees.

Canning may have finished in the top three in scoring in both the division 1 and the championship scoring charts, but his teammates, and Galway, unquestionably benefited from him being less of a scoring threat.

But that's just on the pitch, away from hurling, he was able to act as a shoulder to lean on for the Keady family following the sudden and tragic passing of husband, father and Galway great Tony Keady.

He stood with Shannon Keady following the All-Ireland win and he also collected his All-Ireland Hurler of the Year award from the U16 All-Ireland winner.

He played in a charity match in memory of the late Keady, he spent time with two young fans in the immediate moments after Galway's All-Ireland win, and he travelled with Unicef to visit Aleppo, where he had a puckaround with local children.

Part of his trip to Syria is obviously tied to his profile as one of Ireland's most recognisable athletes, 'Pudser' on the junior B side is simply not going to receive the same opportunity, regardless of however charitable or willing he may be towards the plight of the Middle East, but Canning still went and engaged in the experience nonetheless.

He was open, and very open on his social media accounts this year. He was as brilliant as he ever has been in maroon. He made those around him better on the pitch and he made life easier for those off of it.

There are many worthy contenders for the Sportsperson of the Year award, but it would be remiss not to acknowledge Canning's individual year as a hurler, and neglectful to not appreciate the deeds he's done as a human.

Mean tweets withstanding.