The Galway senior county hurling final takes place this Sunday in Pearse Stadium (2.45pm ) with perennial favourites Portumna taking on one of the most consistent sides in the county over the past decade, Loughrea.
It promises to be an absorbing encounter between two sides which are well acquainted, having contested four county finals against each other in the past decade.
Portumna won the Tom Callanan Cup on three of those occasions (2003, 2005 and 2009 ), with Loughrea’s Damien McClearn collecting the trophy in 2006.
Over the past five seasons Loughrea have shown remarkable dedication, commitment and consistency, and this Sunday will be their fourth final in five years.
Having lost the three most recent finals which they have contested, they will be very keen to break their losing sequence. They have been a bit unfortunate to have met high-quality sides like Portumna (2009 ), Clarinbridge (2010 ) – who beat them after a replay - and St Thomas in last year’s decider. All those three clubs are All-Ireland title winners.
Loughrea manager Enda McDonnell is positive, but cautious about his side’s possible chances of annexing what would be the club’s third senior title this weekend.
“It is a 50:50 game and we have an awful lot of respect for Portumna and what they have achieved in the past decade. However, we believe our lads have a big performance in them, and they will need to produce that if we are to get a win. We will have to improve on what we produced against Beagh in the semi-final. We were good in the first half, but we will need to replicate that type of performance for the full game on Sunday.”
McDonnell was a selector with the club seniors in the past, and he is enormously impressed with the character and honesty of the squad he has taken over as bainistoir.
“The older lads on the panel have shown huge dedication, year-in, year-out, for the past few seasons. They are super hurling men and great club men. A positive is that we have a few new lads in the set-up this year. We are going with a new approach and we feel that this is a new Loughrea team and we are trying hard to find the elusive winning formula. We have a few good youngsters like Peter Quinn, Alan Cormican and Stephen McCormack pushing hard for places and that competition is a good thing.
“We have changed our style of play and we are hoping the overall balance in the team will be good enough to do the business on Sunday. We feel we have six good forwards and if they gel and play as we know they can, we believe they will be able to hit a match winning tally.
“Portumna have achieved many great things over the past eight or nine years, especially winning three All-Ireland titles, and they represent a massive challenge on Sunday. However it is one we are all looking forward to, and we will be going out to do our best. Hopefully it will be a good day for hurling, and may the best team on the day win.”
No Magic Formula
Portumna’s Frank Canning will be in the opposite corner on Sunday, and he too is looking forward to an exciting hurling encounter.
“We are hoping for a good day weather wise, with no wind or rain, so both teams can produce their best and we will have a good game.
“There is no magic formula and it will be up to the Portumna players to go out with the right attitude and “man up” on the day. Loughrea have been very consistent, not alone this year, but in the past few years, and we will have to be at our very best to beat them.
“Our team is not getting any younger and eight of the lads who started in the 2003 county final are due to start this Sunday too. That is a long time playing at a high level with some long seasons, and we are hoping there is another kick in them this weekend.”
Canning played on that 2003 team, which won the club’s first senior title, and he was also a selector in 2008/2009 when the club won the Tommy Moore Trophy for the third time. He is enjoying his role as senior manager, but his approach is to stick to a tried and trusted Portumna formula.
“We train three times a week. That’s it. Wednesday, Friday, and usually early, around 9.30am, on Sunday morning. We want the lads to enjoy their hurling and stay fresh. Over-training can be a problem sometimes and we like to keep the emphasis on the hurling and doing things with the ball.
“It is all to play for on Sunday. There have been an awful lot of really tight games in the club championship this year, and all the four quarter-finals went down to the last few minutes. “It is good for Galway hurling that so many clubs are setting their standards high and trying to win the county cup. It is never easy won. We know that. And so do Loughrea. Both of us will be going out to try to win the game, and it will come down to which side performs on the day.”
Minor A final
The county minor A hurling final this Sunday at 1pm in Pearse Stadium sees city side Liam Mellows taking on favourites Turloughmore.
Mellows have improved as the season has progressed, and they will relish their underdog status on Sunday.