TEENAGER Joe Canning fired the bulk of the scud missiles at one end, while older brother, Ollie stopped many of the return strikes at the other as Portumna hurlers launched a glorious Galway double in yesterday's AIB All-Ireland club finals in Croke Park.
AIB Club SHC final
TEENAGER Joe Canning fired the bulk of the scud missiles at one end, while older brother, Ollie intercepted many of the retaliatory strikes at the other as Portumna hurlers launched a glorious Galway double in yesterday's AIB All-Ireland club finals in Croke Park.
Afterwards, as the Portumna squad whooped joyously down the tunnel towards the dressing-room to begin celebrating their first All-Ireland success, 17 year-old Joe Canning strode quietly by, clutching the Man of the Match award, a just reward for scoring 1-6 and setting up the second goal for Niall Hayes.
"As nice a lad as you'll ever find. He takes everything in his stride," remarked Portumna coach, Sean Treacy, a man who contributed enormously to club and county during his playing days.
Joe struck for Portumna's first goal in the third minute and created the second for Niall Hayes three minutes later, but his accuracy from frees against the howling, icy wind in the second half was probably even more significant.
Newtownshandrum, the 2004 All-Ireland winners, must have felt that a second title was on its way when they recovered from a 2-1 to 0-0 deficit after nine minutes to be just a goal adrift (2-3 to 1-3) at half-time.
They had played into the spiteful elements in the first half but two points from Cathal Naughton, a superb solo goal from Jerry O'Connor in the 21st minute and a pointed free by his brother Ben left them poised at Portumna's shoulder on the re-start.
"I reckoned that only about eight of our lads had performed as they can in the first half. We re-grouped at half-time, told them a few home truths and demanded a bigger effort and, boy did we get it," said Treacy.
Still, when Ben O'Connor cut the lead to two points three minutes into the second half, the Cork champions seemed destined to enjoy another memorable day, but they didn't score again for 21 minutes. Meantime, young Canning had pointed four frees, mostly from long distances.
They were the fruits of a whole new layer of intensity and endeavour by Portumna, whose workrate trebled in the second half.
Ollie Canning, Eugene McEntee and Micheal Ryan bolted the defence tightly, while further afield Kevin Hayes, Damien Hayes and Joe Canning teased the Newtownshandrum defence who conceded frees under pressure.
Given the dreadful conditions, it was always going to be a physically-testing game and Portumna stood up well to every challenge especially in the second half.
Newtownshandrum, whose running game wore down so many opponents in recent seasons, were themselves out-run and, as their frustration levels rose, centre-back, Pat Mulcahy was sent off in the 57th minute for a second yellow card offence.
The fact that Newtownshandrum managed just one point from play - and 0-3 in all - with the wind in the second half underlines the solidity of the Portumna defence which remained defiant right to the end when, typically, Ollie Canning deflected a goal bound shot away.
After quite a few disappointments in Croke Park, it was fitting that he should play such a major part in a historic victory.
"This is the pinnacle for anybody. This team should feel privileged because many other Portumna lads did as much for the club over the years but weren't lucky enough to be with the sort of group we have now. This win is as much for them as us," said Ollie.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Joe Canning
SCORERS - Portumna: J Canning 1-6 (0-6f), N Hayes 1-0, D Hayes 0-1, L Smith 0-1. Newtownshandrum: B O'Connor 0-4 (0-3f), J O'Connor 1-0, C Naughton 0-2.
PORTUMNA - I Canning; M Gill, E McEntee, O Canning; G Heagney, M Ryan, A O'Donnell; L Smith, E Lynch; D Canning, K Hayes, A Smith; D Hayes, N Hayes, J Canning.
NEWTOWNSHANDRUM - P Morrissey; M Farrell, B Mulcahy, D Gleeson; AT O'Brien, P Mulcahy, P Noonan; JP King, Jerry O'Connor; D Mulcahy, B O'Connor; John O'Connor; W O'Mahony, J Bowles, C Naughton.
REF - B Gavin (Offaly)