It has been a remarkable decade of success for the hurlers of Portumna.
Five senior county titles, and three All-Ireland club titles were on their roll of honour before last Monday. And the Tom Callanan Cup is going Shannonside once again, after they comprehensively defeated Loughrea on a score-line of 3-12 to 0-14 at Pearse Stadium.
The club had never won a county senior title before 2003, and now they have six. That is a stunning run of titles in 11 years, and no doubt they will set their sights on collecting another possible All-Ireland crown next March.
They have been out of the limelight for the past three years, however they produced a top class display three days ago to outshine a hardworking, but ill-fated Loughrea outfit.
Once Joe Canning was allowed to score a three-pointer directly from a free after only eight minutes, it looked as though it could be a long day at the office for Enda McDonnell’s men.
To their credit they rallied well and had some good points of their own from the impressive Johnny O’ Loughlin, Neil Keary and Jamie Ryan.
That good work was undone, though, when Ollie Canning and Damien Hayes combined superbly on the left wing to set up Andy Smith for a brilliantly taken goal. It was a key moment in the game and the spectacular nature of the goal showed Portumna at their best.
They played very controlled hurling throughout the game and the way they continually orchestrated and adjusted their forward line made for compelling viewing.
Joe Canning was also masterful when he needed to be, and one of the highlights of the game was when he controlled a Loughrea puck-out on his hurl and raced forward to lash over a spectacular point. He also scored a lovely point in the first half following a super lay-off from the hard working “Chunky” Hayes.
Loughrea hit some fine points, including a good effort from Johnny Maher to reach half-time level, at 2-5 to 0-11.
However, there was a feeling on the terraces at that stage that Portumna looked more composed and more efficient in possession, and with wind advantage to come in the second half, they were going to be hard to stop.
And that is how it turned out – four fast points from Joe Canning, a lovely effort from their inspirational captain Ollie Canning, and man-of-the-match Andy Smith left Loughrea searching for a goal to reignite their challenge.
Unfortunately for a group of players who have suffered a lot of county final defeats in the past few years, that was not to be.
While they battled manfully, they missed a few frees and when a ball did break off Johnny Maher at the edge of the square it was scooped over, rather than under the bar. Likewise, they only got a white flag off a late penalty from Johnny Coen and they really needed goals rather than points from those chances, if they were going to have any hope of victory once Damien Hayes hit a third goal for Frank Canning’s charges.
The likes of Seán Sweeney, team captain Gavin Keary and Johnny Coen all worked hard, but as a team they were a bit one dimensional up-front and aimed a lot of high ball in on Johnny Maher in the second half. They only managed 0-3 in the entire second half and that was never going to be enough against the likes of Portumna.
Few would begrudge this Loughrea team a second title to add to the one they won in 2006.
On the day, Portumna were the better side and as well as the men mentioned above, the likes of impressive goalkeeper Joe Keane, Martin Dolphin, Eugene McEntee, Conor O’ Hare, Leo Smith until he got injured, and the powerful Eoin Lynch all played big roles.
Portumna: J Keane, M Ryan, E McEntee, G Heagney, C O’Hare, M Dolphin, E Lynch, L Smith, J Canning 1-5 (1-3f ), K Hayes, D Hayes 1-1, O Canning, Cpt, 0-1, A Smith 1-5, R O’Meara, N Hayes.
Subs: P Smith for L Smith (inj ) (h-t ), O Royston for O’Meara (62 ), O Treacy for Ryan (62 ).
Loughrea: N Murray; E Mahony, D Mc Clearn, T Regan; S Sweeney, B Mahony, V Maher; E Mahony, G Keary 0-1; N Keary 0-5 (4f ),, P Hoban 0-1, J Coen 0-2 (0-1 pen ), J O’Loughlin 0-2, J Maher 0-1, J Ryan 0-2.
Sub: T Hoban for E Mahony (42 ).