Joe Canning’s nerves of steel and unerring accuracy may have drawn much of the praise in Galway’s tied All-Ireland final clash with Kilkenny earlier this month, but an equally vital contribution came from Iarla Tannian in midfield, who gave a towering performance in the centre of the park, putting his body on the line on more than one occasion as Galway pitted their strength against the Cats.
Signs on, the Ardrahan clubman was named ‘Man of the Match’ and Galway will need Tannian to reproduce that intensity for another 70 minutes this Sunday if they are to finish the job.
Tannian has been transformed from a forward into a midfield engine of considerable power and, despite taking a heavy knock in the game’s early stages, worked tirelessly throughout the game, particularly in the second half, when Kilkenny began to assert themselves upon proceedings.
Should the Liam MacCarthy return to Galway after a 24-year wait, Manager Anthony Cunningham will look back on his decision to play Tannian in midfield as one of the campaign’s defining moments.
Tannian burst on to the Galway senior hurling scene in 2007, scoring three points in his Championship debut against Limerick, and remained a fixture until he was sidelined by a knee injury for the duration of the 2009 season.
Although always good for a point or two throughout his time as a forward, it has been since his redeployment as a number eight that he has shown himself to be up there with the best the country has to offer.
At 28 years of age, the Ardrahan man is in the prime of his career, and having shaken off the knock he took against Kilkenny, his partnership with Andy Smith in the middle-third will prove crucial this Sunday.
Of course, no one man can win a game alone, and Tannian’s best efforts will mean nothing if Joe Canning and co do not take their scores, or if James Skehill and the six in front of him do not maintain their recent defensive solidity.
Having said that, the sheer bloody-mindedness displayed by Tannian on 9 September, the almost reckless disregard for his own body as he threw himself in front of the incessant second-half black and amber onslaught, is the kind of performance, which galvanises a team, inspires the support and often, marks out a champion.
Tannian lists listening to music on his iPod as one of his favourite pre-match rituals, with Bruce Springsteen among his favourite acts. If he can emulate his idol this Sunday and be ‘The Boss’, a 24-year wait may be over.