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’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.

Brilliant effect
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.”

Equally decisive
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.

Loughrea, however, didn’t seem particularly worried by either first-half strikes. If anything, they enjoyed more of the ball and manager Enda McDonnell must have been pleased to see all six starting forwards score from play over the first half hour.

Johnny O’Loughlin landed two excellent points under pressure and Neil Keary was immaculate in his free-taking. Loughrea saw plenty of ball, with Gavin Keary, Seán Sweeney and Johnny Coen dominant in their lines.

But they struggled when they returned after half-time: Keary found the wind cruel on his free-taking and even though Portumna registered seven wides, they eased into control after Dolphin played a smart crossfield free which Ollie Canning smartly pointed in the 37th minute. Up 2-7 to 0-11, Portumna rarely looked back but breathed more easily after Damien Hayes coolly finished after both Niall and Kevin Hayes played the ball into his path.

That was that. Andy Smith was man of the match as well when Portumna won their first county title in 2003. It has been a decade of dominance and by now they are old hands at it.

PORTUMNA: 1 J Keane, 17 M Ryan, 6 E McEntee, 4 G Heagney; 7 C O’Hare, 5 M Dolphin, 3 E Lynch; 8 L Smith (0-1), 14 J Canning (1-5, 4 frees (goal); 11 O Canning (0-1), 12 A Smith (1-4), 9 D Hayes (1-1); 10 K Hayes, 13 R O’Meara, 15 N Hayes. Subs: 18 C Burke for L Smith (inj, half-time), O Royston for R O’Meara (61 mins), O Treacy for M Ryan (61 mins).
LOUGHREA: 1 N Murray, 2 T Regan, 3 D McClearn, 4 E Mahony; 5 V Maher, 6 B Mahony, 7 S Sweeney; 8 E Mahony, 9 G Keary (0-1); 10 N Keary (0-5, 4 frees), 11 J Coen (0-2, pen), 12 P Hoban (0-1); 13 J O’Loughlin (0-2), 14 J Maher (0-1), 15 J Ryan (0-2). Subs: 20 T Hoban for E Mahony (43 mins).
Referee: J Keane. Attendance: 8,800.