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Portumna look a step too far for plucky Rangers

YOU couldn't make it up – Carlow hurlers in an All-Ireland senior final.


(Croke Park, Today 2.0, live TG4)

 Only one eventuality would be more outlandish – those self-same Carlow hurlers taking home the Tommy Moore Cup at the expense of an all-time great.

But would it really be so bizarre, given all we have learned about Mount Leinster Rangers during this incredible odyssey? Perhaps not, because they have proven themselves – time and again, against Ballyboden St Enda's, Oulart-The Ballagh and Loughgiel – to be a team deserving of far more than glib platitudes.

Physically, they're a powerhouse collection. Mentally, they've been tough as nails. Their ball-winning potential, especially across the half-back line, has been a recurring feature. In Denis Murphy – who boasts a five-game running tally of 1-45 from the Carlow county final onwards – they possess an assured free-taker who could well have a profound influence if the game is tight.

Moreover, MLR are so far into bonus territory that they could, in theory, embrace the big day with an unstoppable zeal. So far, so plausible.

Logically, however, it's impossible to forget that Portumna are so well versed in the All-Ireland occasion, so experienced, and still so formidable (albeit less convincing than in their previous pomp) that they'll just know how to work this one out.

Oh, and did we mention a certain Joe Canning?

ODDS: Portumna 1/4, Draw 11/1, MLR 7/2

VERDICT: Portumna