An action-packed weekend in the Galway senior hurling championship saw the contenders for the Tom Callanan Cup narrowed down to eight as four preliminary quarter-finals took centre stage, while Portumna pulled off the shock result of the weekend in demoting Gort down to senior B hurling for 2020.
Three successive narrow losses had put Gort in an unexpected position, and once again a side with plenty of talent at its disposal came out the wrong side of a nip-and-tuck battle - Joe Canning’s late score giving Portumna a 0-21 to 2-14 victory.
It was a day for the veterans from Portumna to roll back the years, with Ollie Canning an important contributor alongside Damien Hayes, who announced his retirement from the game in the aftermath after the conclusion of his 27th season playing senior club hurling.
One of Hayes’ former intercounty team-mates helped his club retain their senior A status as Ger Farragher took over the free-taking duties late on to steer Castlegar home against Kilnadeema-Leitrim by 3-13 to 2-13.
Goals by Jack Coyne, Kevin Keane, and Enda Concannon had put the city side in the driving seat, but when Jack Kenny found the net late on to level matters another upset looked on the cards. Dean Higgins’ point, though, nudged Castlegar back in front in stoppage time before Farragher calmly added the insurance scores.
In the first of the preliminary quarter-finals played on Saturday afternoon in Pearse Stadium, Liam Mellows scored six of the last seven points to run out convincing 1-21 to 1-14 winners over Oranmore-Maree, who will still be delighted with how their season unfolded, and will now face Sarsfields in the last eight.
Tommy Larkins finished strongly on Sunday in Loughrea to overpower an Athenry side which had only been a point in arrears with five minutes left to play. A late Ronan Murphy goal put the seal on a 1-19 to 0-15 win for Ciaran Fahy’s men, who will now go in as underdogs against title favourites St Thomas in the next round, but may well relish the opportunity.
Craughwell overturned a five-point first half deficit to get the better of Tynagh Abbey-Duniry in Athenry, with Niall Healy reaching double figures for the victors in a 1-17 to 0-16 win. The draw has now pitted them against a much-fancied Turloughmore side with eyes on a first title win since 1985.
In the most eagerly awaited of the four knock-out games, Cappataggle kept their hopes of reaching a first ever county final alive with a 0-22 to 1-16 win over Clarinbridge. Once again this tie was not decided until stoppage time, after Evan Niland had brought David Forde’s side level in the last minute of normal time.
It was not to be, though, for Clarinbridge, as points from Dan Nevin and Alan Dolan (two ) thrust Cappy into a last eight pairing with Loughrea. All four mouth-watering quarter finals will take place on the weekend of October 11/12 in Kenny Park, Athenry.
The final senior game of the weekend was the only one that did not produce a definitive result, as the relegation play-off between Abbeyknockmoy and Ahascragh-Fohenagh ended in a 0-19 to 1-16 draw, with Barry Farragher proving the hero for Ahascragh/Fohenagh with a late equaliser to keep their hopes of staying in senior alive.
McDonagh is player of the year
Galway Minor centre-forward Seán McDonagh was on Saturday named as Electric Ireland Minor Hurling Player of the Year at the 2019 Electric Ireland GAA Minor Star Awards in Croke Park.
Seán McDonagh played a vital role for the Galway Minor Hurlers this year, as Brian Hanley’s men marched to a third straight All-Ireland title. McDonagh was central to the Tribesmen’s success, shooting an astonishing 2-8 in the victory over Kilkenny. The Mountbellew-Moylough youngster finished with a total of 4-38 over the course of the 2019 Championship, showcasing his talismanic role in his second year with the team.