Gort’s greater hunger is rewarded in county hurling final

Three reasons Gort are county hurling champions

Richard Cummins of Gort comes under pressure from Portumna's Peter Smyth and Conor O'Hare in the Salthill Hotel Galway Senior Hurling Championship final at Kenny Park, Athenry, on Sunday. 	Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Richard Cummins of Gort comes under pressure from Portumna's Peter Smyth and Conor O'Hare in the Salthill Hotel Galway Senior Hurling Championship final at Kenny Park, Athenry, on Sunday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

1. Gort's greater hunger and desire for victory

It may be a cliché, but the truism about the hungrier team winning has stood the test of time.

In a tight game, with little between the sides, especially in a game played in the depths of winter,  real hunger and desire for victory is worth a few points.

Gort were beaten by a Portumna side in their pomp in the 2008 county final - 1-18 to 2-07 - and a fair few of the Gort lads playing last Sunday would have wanted that memory banished from their memory banks.

In any sport, and especially Gaelic Games, the psychological advantage of wanting, or feeling the need to get retribution for something, is a tremendous motivator. Gort had that advantage last Sunday.

The Gort players won a lot of dirty ball last Sunday and their huge desire for the scrimmage was evidenced by the cameo of four Gort men chasing down Damien Hayes and forcing him to over carry the ball and concede a free.

All day the Gort players harried and tackled and pressurised the Portumna men and they had a zest for the battle that was difficult to match.

As the Gort captain, and many people's man-of-the-match Greg Lally pointed out after the game: "We knew that if we brought the game to them, if we worked hard, worked like dogs, worked in packs, we would overturn them."

And they did.

Mike Monaghan's men had been on the championship road for at least 20  months and that takes its toll on any team.

A lot of the Portumna lads playing last Sunday have six senior county medals and four All-Ireland club medals in their collection after a remarkable period of success for the club.

On the day Gort were fresher and keener, and no coaching or team meetings can really nullify that.

Gort are a younger team too, and after a very long year, may be the likes of Michael Mullins, Wayne Walsh, Albert Mullins, Gerard O' Donoghue, Aidan Harte, Greg Lally, the Linnane boys and Jack Grealish just had a bit more pep in their step than their respective counterparts on the Portumna team.

2. Lack of a championship game for nine weeks for Portumna

Through no fault of their own, Portumna found themselves without a championship game for nine full weeks.

The current All-Ireland champions defeated Craughwell by 1-15 to 0-15 on October 12, and then nine weeks later, they had to go out and face a team that had played a county semi-final just two weeks before.

How fair was that?

Gort were more alert, sharper and their team play was superior in the first half and their touch was surer than the Shannonsiders.

The championship preparation they had garnered in their win over Beagh was plain to see and that game gave them a nice bit of momentum going into the final.

Portumna's enforced hibernation from championship hurling from October 12 to December 14  did them no favours at all and was a disadvantage to their chances of winning a seventh title in 12 years.

It is not to take away from Gort's tremendous achievement in any way.  They full merited their second title in four years, and they probably would have won either way, nevertheless, even the Gort lads will say that having played a championship semi-final 13 days before the final did them no harm at all.

And in a wider context, while it was the hassle with Beagh's appeal against Turloughmore that led to the unacceptable delay in the senior championship, what are the reasons that the two county u-21 finals and the A and B Junior finals were played so late in the year?

Or was it fair to put Cappataggle in the position where they had to play the county intermediate final on a Saturday and the Connacht club final on the Sunday?

Are we missing something here - is hurling more enjoyable to watch, or attend, or play in November and December.

3. Gort's defence held firm

When Portumna were going really well they were racking up huge scores and hitting goals for fun.

In the county finals of 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, they won with tallies 3-21, 6-12, 1-18 and 5-19.

However, with Greg Lally, Aidan Harte, Michael Cummins and Tadhg and Sylvie Óg Linnane in good form, the much vaunted Portumna attack found it hard to penetrate for key scores.

At the other end of the field Richie Cummins and Gerry Quinn always looked dangerous and the game and result also reopened the vexed question on where a team should deploy Joe Canning.

When he was pushed into the edge of the square, he produced one of his trademark catches from a long delivery and caused panic before he was pulled down for a free.

It made onlookers wonder why he was not positioned in the inside line for the duration of the game.

Would Canning have offered more penetration for Portumna if he had been left there?

As a Gort man pointed out after the game, the further from their goal Canning was, the better they liked it.


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