Usually Portumna align themselves to a cause, and on Sunday afternoon at Pearse Stadium the All Ireland champions avenged a particularly
disturbing defeat that occurred back in 2006. Loughrea staged a remarkable recovery in that decider, but from an early stage last weekend it was apparent that the only thing needing deciding would be the margin of Portumna’s victory. Prompted by the splendid Damien Hayes, who ended the contest with a highly productive 3-3 haul, Portumna were never in serious trouble capturing a third county title in a row. Already the focus has switched to making it three All Ireland’s on the spin. That is the level Portumna are operating at, and this delights man of the match Hayes following his team’s fifth Galway success in seven busy years. "For this bunch of players, it was very important for us to win this one, because there has been a lot said about ‘06.
"At the end of the day Loughrea won the county final and they had their county medals and that’s it. End of story. I never got involved
in the rest of it. We just wanted to put a stop to the talk; all the rest has been said. It was so important for this bunch of players to go and win it.
"We know this is not going to happen for ever, that is the long and short of it. This bunch of players will never come again. Winning five
county medals is extremely special.’’ By the 14th minute goals from a Joe Canning free, and two efforts from Damien Hayes guided Portumna into a commanding 3-2 to 0-1 lead. Just like a couple of years ago when Kinvara were torched the damage was done early and often. Johnny Maher blasted a Loughrea goal in the 18th minute, but it was merely a brief interruption of Portumna’s dominance as the standard bearers trotted in at the interval 3-10 to 1-5 ahead. Damien Hayes and Martin Dolphin added goals after the break to seal the deal before Niall Hayes was sent off. The pacy Damien Hayes notched three clever points too, and paid tribute to the enthusiasm of his colleagues. "I will always praise my team-mates. Everything was handed to me or passed or put ‘60/40’ in my direction. Thankfully they all went in. Every dog has his day and maybe I had mine there. It finished off a good year for me.” Unsurprisingly Portumna manager Johnny Kelly cut a satisfied figure following a game that was controlled by his players. "We went out to play hurling as much as we could. We have a physical approach to our play anyway, so it’s very hard to temper that. If we did, we’d be under pressure. We played to our strengths and it worked out on the day.
"It was comparatively easy in the finish. But we know we have some seriously talented forwards and if we get the ball into them, they will do serious damage. Hurling is a funny game so you have to keep the foot on the pedal all the time. We were caught on occasions before, so we take nothing for granted. Where is the joy in sport if you are not going out with a competitive edge? That’s instilled in the boys and it’s working well for them.’’Despite this reversal Loughrea have shown plenty of promise in 2009 and the emergence of Neil Keary, who stuck eight points, offers hope, and manager Padraic Duddy’s post match assessment was honest. "I suppose you have good days and bad days in hurling and this was a bad day for Loughrea. We were playing catch up and with a team of that quality you are not going to do it. I am immensely proud of the
Loughrea lads. They never throw in the towel, but those goals were a killer. "They are a serious team. Their record speaks for itself. I
have no complaints about being beaten by a team like that. What can you say? You take your beating and that’s it.’’ Portumna are looking
forward to the spring again.
Portumna: I Canning; A O’Donnell, E McEntee, O Canning; G Heagney, M
Ryan, P Smith; E Lynch (0-1 ), L Smith; A Smith (0-1 ), K Hayes (0-3 ), A
N Hayes; M Dolphin (1-1 ), J Canning (1-10, 1-8 frees, two 65s ); D
Hayes (3-3 ). Subs: C Ryan for P Smith (47 mins ); D Canning for Dolphin
(56 mins ); J Keane for I Canning (60 mins ).
Loughrea: S Morgan; D Melia, D McClearn, E Mahony; J Dooley, V Maher,
T Regan; G Keary, B Mahony; J O’Loughlin (0-1 ), J Maher (1-1 ), J Coen;
K Colleran (0-1 ), R Regan, N Keary (0-8, seven frees ). Subs: E Mahony
(0-1 ) for Melia (15 mins ); G Glynn for Colleran (50 mins ); P Hoban for
E Mahony (50 mins ).
Referee: A Kelly (Rahoon/Newcastle ).