Portumna lift Galway SHC title with victory over Loughrea on poignant day
A minute’s silence was observed for Niall Donoghue before the senior match
Portumna’s Ronan O’Meara is chased by Loughrea’s Eoin Mahony and Tom Regan in Pearse Stadium yesterday. Photograph: Inpho
Portumna 3-12 Loughrea 0-14: There was a familiar end to a terribly sad week for Galway hurling when Portumna claimed their sixth county championship in 11 seasons on a wild afternoon in Salthill.
This was not a classic county final but on a day when trying to keep a grip on umbrellas was a task, both teams managed some terrific scores on a difficult day for hurling. This occasion was, of course, tinged with the sense of sadness which has gripped the GAA nationally this week.
A minute’s silence was observed for Niall Donoghue before the senior match. It can’t have been easy for any of the hurlers here and even as Portumna celebrated their latest success, the thoughts of Damian Hayes inevitably drifted towards his former Galway team mate. “We are thinking about him today, of course we are. The Lord have mercy on him, and Niall, he will not be forgotten, you know. Not for a long, long time.”
Despite the sombre context, the day ended on a familiar note: Portuman cheers. All afternoon, the Portumna back six dealt competently with Loughrea’s increasing need for goals, with Martin Dolphin very commanding at centre back and Eugene McEntee making a great catch late in the game.
Ollie Canning moved with Portumna’s rotating front six in the first half but dropped back in the second to brilliant effect, picking off neat, low passes and covering back and generally making light of his 37 years.
The goals fell at a perfect time for the south Galway side. Their first came from a typical scenario: Joe Canning standing glowering over a 21-metre free after Eoin Mahony stopped Damien Hayes in his stride. Canning cut a notably lean figure here but his strike is as powerful as ever. It got a touch off a Loughrea hurl but it was vintage Canning.
“To be truthful about it, we spoke about it minutes before the throw in but I thought he would be in front of the goals,” said Frank Canning, both brother and manager.
“I didn’t think he would be out that much. So brilliant shot from him, yeah.”
After that, Canning thrived on breaks, bursting from midfield for an elegant point after 20 minutes which typified the general economy of the Portumna side in that first half. He stayed midfield throughout the match and contributed two frees in the second half.
“There is a big thing about leaving Joe in midfield. Look it, we will pick our team. The calibre of player he is and the quality he has . . . you could leave him in full forward and he would go long periods without pucking a ball. There is too much made of where Joe plays, to be honest.”
Portumna’s second goal was equally decisive, with Ollie Canning flicking the ball to Damien Hayes who in turn supplied Andy Smith breaking along the left wing. Smith had nothing but goal on this mind and his finish was sweet.