Winning the Sam Maguire Cup marked the fulfilment of a glittering county career
‘I think I’ve said enough. It’s time to take Sam home.’ With these words echoing in their ears, supporters of the Tyrone Gaelic football team headed out of Croke Park on September 28, 2003, to pave the way for the man whom some regard as the greatest footballer of all—Peter Canavan.
For the 32-year-old Cookstown teacher, who plays club football with Errigal Ciaran in Ballygawley, winning the Sam Maguire Cup marked the fulfilment of a glittering county career. Leading Tyrone to All-Ireland victory, 0-12 to 0-9, against defending champions Armagh, completed the circle begun in October 1989, when he made his debut against Mayo in the National Football League.
Canavan could be said to have had, by his own standards, a bad day. Five points against Armagh was less than half the 11 points he scored against Dublin on his last All-Ireland final appearance in 1995, when the Ulster champions lost by just one point. Whether for club or county, the diminutive forward has always had an eye for the goal posts. Games in which Canavan has failed to score have been few and far between. His scoring average in both league and championship football would be a lot higher but for a long list of serious injuries.
When Tyrone reached the All-Ireland semi final again in 1996, Canavan was deliberately targeted by Meath early in the game. It was a couple of seasons before he recovered to anything like his best. However, in 2003, Canavan’s determination to get an All-Ireland winners medal was so strong that he battled back from a serious ankle injury sustained in the semi final against Kerry. His very presence gave a boost of confidence to his teammates, and reassured Tyrone’s legions of supporters that, on this occasion, they would not go home empty handed.
Canavan has also represented Ulster in the Railway Cup and Ireland in the International Rules series. Further honours include five All Star, one All-Ireland Senior Championship, four Ulster Senior Football Championship, two National League, and two All-Ireland under 21 title wins.
© Padraig Coyle 2004