Tyrone GAA’s Peter Canavan the greatest of them all…
There has and always will be the debate within sport, and in this case gaelic football, as to who is “The Greatest of them all”. But one name which will always be right up there in that argument is Tyrone GAA Legend, Peter Canavan.
As a Tyrone gael, we have seen so many exceptionally talented players to have played the game from the genius of Frank McGuigan, the grace of Eugene McKenna to the more recent exploits of brilliant stars such as Stephen O’Neill, Sean Cavanagh and Brian Dooher.
Colm Cooper, after his retirement in 2017, was rightly labelled as one of the greatest players to have played gaelic football and, any real GAA fan must surely have delighted in some of his exceptional skills on the field of play just as we have enjoyed the grace and style of Maurice Fitzgerald and accepted the brilliance of the likes of Tomas O’Se and Seamus Moynihan too from the Kingdom.
Stephen McDonnell and Anthony Tohill have also been a thorn in the side of the O’Neill County over many years but have also been “great players” and few would argue, from outside of Tyrone, that the likes of Philip Jordan, Sean Cavanagh, Brian Dooher, Frank McGuigan, Eugene McKenna, Kevin McCabe, Conor Gormley, Brian McGuigan and Stephen O’Neill are among the greatest ever to have played too – and there are so many other Tyrone names which could be added to that list!
The debate could go on and on and, in reality, a plethora of other names could go on there.
But we just feel that now could be a good time to reflect back on some statistics and reflections on the exceptional playing career, which spanned 17 years in the Tyrone senior jersey, of Peter Canavan.
Canavan – in terms of his skill, determination, pace, reading of the game, leadership, ability to get impossible scores when all seemed lost and his overall impact on major games – stands in our opinion as the “Greatest Player to have played Gaelic Football”…
Canavan makes Tyrone senior debut as a minor…
Although he had made his Tyrone senior debut when still playing for the Tyrone minor team, Peter Canavan went on to celebrate his 32nd birthday in the spring of 2003 and he still hadn’t got an All-Ireland senior medal to his credit, the one thing that he really craved.
He had been in the Tyrone panel since he was eighteen and it was beginning to look like time was going to beat him in his quest for the ultimate football honour. Most men would have let the dream go at that stage in their career and accepted that it probably wasn’t going to happen.
But the two biggest highlights of the Tyrone genius’ extraordinary career were yet to come. The first ever Tyrone man to captain the Red Hand County to a Sam Maguire Cup success in 2003 and, at the age of 34, Canavan, with two All-Ireland medals tucked away, then decided that his work as a Tyrone player was complete.
Within hours of scoring a magnificent goal against Kerry to help Tyrone collect Sam for the second time in three seasons in September 2005, Peter Canavan announced his retirement from inter-county football. Rarely, if ever, has a player bowed out in such spectacular fashion!
Scoring a wonder goal, and later complementing it with an absolute peach of a point, in the biggest game on the calendar isn’t normally the work of a man who’s fulfilling his last inter-county fixture. Only Peter Canavan could go out like that.
Even though he had been the first Tyrone man to lift the Sam Maguire Cup two years earlier, Peter replied “this is better” when asked in the changing-rooms afterwards how his second All-Ireland win compared with the first. The sense of satisfaction that he was feeling was tangible and the subsequent announcement of his retirement a few hours later made it clearer why All-Ireland number two was that bit better.
The way Canavan played in his 50th SFC appearance for Tyrone, and the style in which he converted his two scoring chances against Kerry, suggested to many that he had more to give for Tyrone. But he played down the quality of his first half goal, instead passing on most of the credit to the man who created the chance for him.
“In fairness, it was put on a plate by young Mulligan. He did all the hard work. I was delighted to score it and delighted too to match my good friend and clubmate, Paudge Quinn, who until then had been the only Tyrone man to score a goal in an All-Ireland final. So I’m glad now that I’m on a par with Paudge!”
Peter Canavan was 6 times an All-Star and has so many wonderful highlights that he can look back upon from his first fourteen years in the Tyrone jersey and certainly it’s the two big successes that came after his 32nd birthday that he has always cherished the most!
Tyrone of course would go on and add a 3rd Sam Maguire cup success in 2008 but have since failed to make it back to Croke Park on the most famous GAA footballing day of the year in September – maybe 2017 can change that…
Here are a few facts from his career…
Peter Canavan’s Tyrone Scoring Record
Minor, Under-21, Senior (1988 – 2005)
|Minor FC||U21 FC||NFL||McKenna Cup||SFC||Total|
|Totals||1-16 (19)||13-53 (92)||17-252 (303)||5-50 (65)||9-193 (220)||45-564 (699)|
PETER CANAVAN (Errigal Ciaran)
- 2 x All-Ireland senior championships (2003,2005)
- 6 x All-Star Awards (1994, 1995, 1996, 2002, 2003, 2005)
- 2 x National Leagues (2002, 2003)
- 4 x Ulster Senior Championships (1996, 1996, 2001, 2003)
- 2 x All-Ireland Under-21 Championships (1991, 1992)
- 3 x Ulster Under-21 Championships (1990, 1991, 1992)
- 1 x Ulster Minor Championship (1988)
- 2 x All-Ireland Vocational Schools (1988, 1989)
- 2 x Ulster Vocational Schools (1988, 1989)
- 5 x Railway Cups (captain in 1998)
- 2 x Ulster Club Championships (1993, 2002)
- 6 x Tyrone Senior Championships (1993, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2006)
- 5 x All-County League titles
- 1 x Dr McKenna Cup (2005)
- All-Ireland Senior Championship finalist (1995)
- All-Ireland U-21 Championship finalist (1990)
- Ulster Club Championship finalist (1997 & 2000)
- National Football League finalist (1992)
- Ulster Senior Championship finalist (1994, 2005)
- McKenna Cup finalist (1990, 1997, 2000, 2003)
Other Canavan Milestones:
- Made Tyrone Senior debut in October 1989 as a Minor in NFL v Mayo
- Made Ulster Senior Championship debut in May 1990 v Armagh
- Footballer of the Year award-winner in 1995
- Scored 0-11 in the 1995 All-Ireland Final.
- Scored 0-11 in the 2003 Ulster Final
- First Tyrone captain to receive the Sam Maguire Cup (2003)
- Captained Tyrone to two Ulster Senior, two National League, two Ulster Under-21 and two All-Ireland Under-21 titles.
- Captained Tyrone to All-Ireland Vocational Schools title in 1989, Errigal Ciaran to the Ulster Club Championship in 1993 and Ulster to the Railway Cup in 1998.
- Scored 4-14 in three All-Ireland Under-21 Finals against Kerry (twice) and Galway
- Scored 2-33 in Ulster senior football finals
- Scored 1-14 in three National Football League finals
- Scored 1-17 in three All-Ireland senior football finals
- Managed Holy Trinity College (Cookstown) to two Ulster Vocational Schools titles and one All-Ireland title in 1998 and to an All-Ireland Final in 2003.
- Scored 9-193 (216) in 50 Senior Championship appearances for Tyrone between 1990 and 2005, becoming the most prolific Ulster marksman in SFC history.
- Scored 17-252 (303 points) in National Football League career.
- Was top scorer in the 2003 All-Ireland senior championship with 1-48 in eight outings.
- Scored 1-42 in the 2002 National Football League and 4-24 in the successful 2003 National League campaign.
- Scored 13-53 in Under-21 Championship career for Tyrone and 1-16 during his Minor Championship career.
- Has made a total of 50 Senior Championship appearances for Tyrone since 1990
- Enjoyed Ulster Schools success with St. Ciaran’s Ballygawley and later played in two Sigerson Cup Finals with St. Mary’s Belfast.
- Top scorer in the Tyrone Senior Championship in 1994 (3-27), 1995 (1-36), 2000 (4-28) and 2002 (3-20)
- Scored 2-20 for Errigal Ciaran in the 2002 Ulster and All-Ireland Club Championships
- Scored 2-17 in 2005 senior championship – including 1-7 against Cavan, winning point in semi-final against Armagh and 1-1 in final against Kerry
Canavan in Finals for Tyrone:
- 1988 Ulster Vocational Schools Final: scored 0-7 v Cavan (won)
- 1988 All-Ireland Vocational Schools Final at Croke Park: scored 1-4 v Mayo (won)
- 1988 Ulster Minor Final at Clones: scored 1-3 v Cavan (won)
- 1989 Ulster Vocational Schools Final: won (captain)
- 1989 All-Ireland Vocational Schools Final at Croke Park: scored 0-4 v Mayo (won, captain)
- 1990 McKenna Cup Final at Casement Park: scored 0-10 v Armagh (lost)
- 1990 Ulster Under-21 Final at Casement Park: scored 1-2 v Down (won)
- 1990 All-Ireland U-21 Final at Mullingar: scored 2-2 v Kerry (lost)
- 1991 Ulster Under 21 Final at Armagh: scored 1-1 v Down (won, captain)
- 1991 All-Ireland U-21 Final at Newbridge: scored 2-5 v Kerry (won, captain)
- 1992 Ulster Under-21 Final at Armagh: scored 0-8 v Monaghan (won, captain)
- 1992 All-Ireland U-21 Final at Longford: scored 0-7 v Galway (won, captain)
- 1992 National League Final at Croke Park: scored 1-2 v Derry (lost)
- 1994 Ulster Senior Final at Clones: scored 0-7 v Down (lost)
- 1995 Ulster Senior Final at Clones: scored 0-5 v Cavan (won)
- 1995 All-Ireland Senior Final at Croke Park: scored 0-11 v Dublin (lost)
- 1996 Ulster Senior Final at Clones: scored 1-1 v Down (won, captain)
- 1997 McKenna Cup Final at Clones: scored 2-1 v Fermanagh (lost)
- 2000 McKenna Cup Final at Clones: scored 0-2 v Cavan (lost)
- 2001 Ulster Senior Final at Clones: scored 0-3 v Cavan (won)
- 2002 National League Final at Clones: scored 0-6 v Cavan (won, captain)
- 2003 McKenna Cup Final at Enniskillen: scored 0-1 v Monaghan (lost)
- 2003 National League Final at Croke Park: scored 0-6 v Laois (won, captain)
- 2003 Ulster Senior Final at Clones: scored 1-6 v Down (drew)
- 2003 Ulster Final Replay at Clones: scored 0-11 v Down (won, captain)
- 2003 All-Ireland final at Croke Park: scored 0-5 v Armagh (won, captain)
- 2005 Ulster Senior Final at Croke Park: drew with Armagh (didn’t score)
- 2005 Ulster Senior Final replay at Croke Park: lost to Armagh (didn’t score)
- 2005 All-Ireland senior final at Croke Park: scored 1-1 v Kerry (won)
Played 29; won 18; drew 2; lost 9.
Canavan in Ulster Senior Club Finals:
- 1993 – scored v Downpatrick (won, captain)
- 1997 – scored v Dungiven (lost)
- 2000 – scored v Bellaghy (lost)
- 2002 – scored v Enniskillen (won)
Canavan’s wins as Captain:
- 1 x All-Ireland senior championship
- 2 x Ulster Under-21 Championships
- 2 x All-Ireland Under-21 Championships
- 2 x Ulster Senior Championships
- 2 x National Leagues
- 1 x All-Ireland Vocational Schools
- 1 x Ulster Club Championship
- 2 x Tyrone Senior Championships
- 1 x Railway Cup
- (Also Ireland Vice-captain v Australia)