Seamus Callanan first came to the fore in Tipperary GAA in 2006 when Tipp beat Galway in the All-Ireland minor final with the Tribesmen chasing three-in-a-row. Success in the 2008 u-21 Munster Championship followed with a victory against Clare which led to Seamus’ subsequent senior county debut for Tipperary against Offaly in the National League.
After ten years on the panel, three All Stars, six Munster titles and two All-Irelands, Seamus is now one of the more experienced men in the Tipperary dressing room. He has seen it all first hand; the highs and the lows of GAA. From stopping Kilkenny’s drive for five in 2010, to losing to Clare at Semple Stadium for the first time in 90 years in June, which ultimately ended the tenure of Michael Ryan. It was a short Summer for Tipperary and their earliest exit from the Championship since 1998, where they were beaten by Waterford in the Munster semi-final. However, Tipperary and Seamus Callanan will be back, of that there is no doubt.
The announcement that Liam Sheedy will return on a three year term to replace Michael Ryan has created a sense of renewed optimism for all that follow the mighty blue and gold. It is the right move for Tipperary hurling. Like everyone, I am excited for Sheedy’s second spell at the helm.
Recently, I got in touch with Seamus Callanan following Tipperary’s defeat to Clare and we spoke about the psychology of sport and dealing with the pressure of playing for Tipperary. Moreover, I asked him how he felt about the harsh criticism of the team in the media, most notably from people like Ger Loughnane, who has been very critical of the current Tipperary team.
Here are Seamus’ thoughts on the following:
As in modern sport, like modern society, there is now added emphasis on the mental side of the game. The notion of mental preparation has taken off in recent years, and I predict it will continue to grow as teams and coaches recognize the importance of an equally fit body and mind. In essence, if you see yourself doing good in competition, that, in turn, increases the likelihood that you will deliver a good performance on the pitch. Techniques such as visualization and self-talk are now vital components of an athletes preparation, and something Seamus has bought into: ”for me, mind-management is a hugely important aspect of sport. In every team now, sports psychologists are playing a huge role in the performance of players. As well as on-pitch work, it is becoming clear that the off-pitch side of things is huge now too.
Visualisation has become a necessity and players get great confidence and belief from the utilization of such mental skills. From videos, to images of positive past contributions or performances out on the field.
Things wont always go to plan in games; how you react mentally to this will benefit performance hugely.”
Dealing with pressure
Pressure. Some thrive on it, some crumble. Essentially, the team, or player, that can best handle the pressure on the big day, is going to come out on top. How one deals with the pressure when the moment comes, separates the great teams from the good. How one comes back from a setback in a big game, or a mistake on All-Ireland final day, will go a long way in deciding the outcome: ”we all have routines we go through in our minds which we attempt to execute on the field. For example, taking frees can add pressure, but players have a mental and physical routine in which they practice and go through to bring them to the present moment. This, in turn, helps to block out all other external factors.
As well as that, the ability to control breathing and visualisation are huge tools used for dealing with pressure in modern sport.
When I am playing for Tipperary, I try to bring myself away from the occasion, and just be in the present moment. That is how I try to deal with the pressure.”
The science of the mind in a sporting setting has taken off in the last two decades. It is an aspect of the game that I have massive interest in as I look to examine the impact mental skills can have on performance. People like Ronnie O Sullivan and Victoria Pendleton have sworn by psychology and have claimed it has saved their careers. Of course, on the other hand, you have people like Joe Brolly who dismiss it as unprovable. Make your own mind up on that one.
In spite of Brolly’s claims (which may or may not be true) that success and failure cannot be measured, it is an area that Seamus Callanan feels has something to offer and he remains open to anything that can increase ones chances of success: ”I feel sports psychology gives great benefits in terms of setting both short term, and long term goals. Ultimately, I think setting out clear plans to reach those goals and filling your mind with positive mental images will help get you get there.
Sports psychology can be really helpful in clearing your mind to just concentrate on the necessities in sport. Also, it can help clear the cloud of external factors out of your mind.
All this helps with clarity in decision making on the pitch,” which in my opinion, can only be a good thing.
On Arsene Wenger and Arsenal
Seamus is a big fan of the Arsenal. In May, following the conclusion of the Premier League, Arsene Wenger stepped down as manager after nearly 22 years at the club. After 1228 games in charge of the Gunners, three Premier League titles – including the 2003/04 campaign when he led his ‘invincibles’ to the title – and seven FA Cups, Seamus, like many, felt he had brought the club as far as he could: ”I feel it was the right time for Arsene Wenger to go, to be honest. I would have huge respect for what he did for the club and developing young players. In addition, he played a massive roll in the development of the new stadium; which deserves a lot of respect.
However, I felt his approach was getting dated. For such a big club to have slipped so much in recent years, it was clear that a change was needed. Unfortunately, he couldn’t go out on a high with a Europa League win after all his years of service.” That would have been a great ending; but it wasn’t to be.
”I am very happy with the appointment of Unai Emery. He is a manager who is used to working on tight transfer budgets and getting the best out of a small squad, and we all know Arsenal won’t spend big money; so hopefully he will be the answer. I expect a fitter, more physical and hardened squad under the new manager. Hopefully, on the field, they will be mentally stronger and more aggressive on the field than they have been in recent years. A top four finish and a return to Champions League football is vital come the end of the season.”
Tipperary have been heavily criticized in recent months, and in particular from Ger Loughnane, who has been very vocal on his thoughts regarding the current team, citing a ‘softness’, and ‘complacency’ as the crux of the teams problems in the past. When questioned on the nature of such comments, Seamus had this to say: ”When you play hurling with Tipperary, you are always expected to win every game.
When that doesn’t happen, then it opens the door for people to be very critical. That is just part and parcel of playing the game, so you just have to get used to it. Personally, I don’t read the papers or read online articles as I find that reviews, good or bad, are no good for my mind.
The team does not need any added motivation from papers or any of the pundits. Nobody listens to any of that; we each have personal and team goals every year. Ultimately, we want to achieve success, and being able to represent our families, clubs and county is all the determination we need.”