Portumna and title holders St Thomas faced each other in Athenry on Sunday in a high profile senior championship clash in Group A, which attracted a good crowd to Kenny Park.
It was a cranky enough encounter and the game had to be stopped a few times for some skirmishes. However, when the dust had settled, it was Portumna that emerged 1-16 to 2-11 winners over John Burke's charges.
Galway star Joe Canning hit the winning points late on as his side saw of the current All-Ireland club hurling champions St Thomas.
His customary scoring partner, Damien Hayes, had set the tone for their victory when he raised a green flag after just 90 seconds, and that three-pointer helped push his side into a commanding 1-8 to 0-3 lead.
At that juncture it was looking good for an easy victory for Portumna, but goals from Conor Cooney and Gerald Murray brought the holders back into contention by half time as they only trailed by 1-10 to 2-4
Conor Cooney hit 1-4, and he was aided and abetted by his county colleague David Burke as they really put it up to Portumna.
However, when the game was in the melting pot, it was Canning who hit the two winning scores - including a sideline - to leave the county and All-Ireland champions with some work to do to reach the quarter-finals.
Following the victory, Mulhollands have installed Portumna as favourites to win the county title outright at 11/8, with St Thomas available at 9/4.
Castlegar beat Craughwell by three points
In Group C Castlegar edged an epic encounter against Craughwell 1-17 to 1-14.
Craughwell looked like they were going to emerge victorious when they took the lead in injury time after Mike Coughlan put them one to the good.
However Castlegar centre-back Kevin Keane had other ideas and, when he bulldozed forward and passed on to Enda Concannon, who in turn found Dean Higgins who struck for a goal, the result was turned on its head. That squeezed Cashel two in front, and when wing back Donal McGreal followed the goal with a sweet point, there was to be no way back for Craughwell.
Former county star Ger Farragher was key to his side's win too as he hit seven points from midfield and his accuracy from placed balls and a sideline cut kept the scoreboard ticking over. Others who caught the eye for the city side were full back Pa Connell, the entire half back line of Tomás Mannion, Keane and McGreal, and up front Enda Concannon and Ronan O' Flynn, who both hit two points each.
Craughwell were too dependent on Niall Healy for scores and, while he hit eight points and Mike Coughlan notched 1-2, they were not able to withstand Cashel's late scoring burst.
Elsewhere it was good to see Galway captain Fergal Moore back in competitive action with Turloughmore having suffered concussion in the league semi-final against Kilkenny.
His side drew with Gort at 1-16 each in their Group B clash. Conor O’Shaughnessy hit a late equaliser for Turloughmore after Gort looked to have clinched the win thanks to Keith Killilea’s late goal.
Also in Group B action, Maurice Callanan hit 0-13 for Ardrahan as they picked up a 0-23 to 0-19 win over Mullagh.
In Group C action Johnny Coen and Johnny Maher both hit late points for last year’s county final runners-up Loughrea as they held out for a good first-day win over Kinvara by 0-17 to 0-13.
In Group A, Eanna Ryan was the top scorer for last year’s intermediate champions Killimordaly. However, they needed a late Keith Kennedy free to seal a share of the spoils against Clarinbridge, while in Goup D, outsiders Padraig Pearses also got their campaign off to a flyer with a 0-16 to 0-13 win over Kiltormer.
In relegation action, Liam Mellows and Athenry drew 1-18 each in Loughrea.
Five points in a row rescued a draw for Gerry Fahy's men who showed a lot of spirit to avoid what looked like a likely defeat. Tadhy Haran shot 0-13 (7fs ) for the city side, and county player Aonghus Callanan weighed in with 0-3 too.