Friday 23 February 2018

Canning key as Portumna reign Evergreen Ollie shows he's not 'over the hill' after guiding team home

Portumna 3-12 Loughrea 0-14

Ollie Canning is lifted by his brother Joe after Portumna’s victory in the Galway club SHC final DIARMUID GREENE/ SPORTSFILE
Ollie Canning is lifted by his brother Joe after Portumna’s victory in the Galway club SHC final DIARMUID GREENE/ SPORTSFILE

John Fallon

Galway SHC final: Ollie Canning was the captain when Portumna won their first county title in 2003 – and he was just as sprightly yesterday at 37 years of age when he again led them home.

Portumna never trailed against a Loughrea side who have now lost six finals in seven appearances in the period since 2003 in which Canning's men have lifted the Tom Callanan Cup six times.

Canning has now skippered them to victory on four occasions and, having reverted to attack, where he used play when he was young, he's enjoying it now as much as ever.

"It's tough going every year, but I am lucky enough to be injury-free and I enjoyed the training this year. It wasn't too taxing, it was quality more than quantity," he said.

TOUGH

"It was tough going out there, the underfoot conditions were very heavy, but everyone toed the line. We had great performances from the youngest to the oldest in the team – everyone did their bit today."

Canning said that having not been in the final since 2009 – Portumna contested seven in a row prior to that – was a great motivating factor all year and their return to the summit was celebrated as if it was their first.

"This victory is up there. It's very very sweet," he said. "The last couple of years people were maybe writing us off. We didn't get past the quarter-final for the last couple of years.

"There is no better way to bounce back when people are writing you off to come back and maybe answer your critics. We were just so happy, we knew we had the quality in the team, maybe we got a couple of breaks."

He added: "We had a few tough games in the quarter and semi-final to get here – but you need the breaks to get here. It's great when you bounce back. People out there maybe think you are gone over the hill, so it is very, very sweet one this year."

It was also a special day for the Canning family as older brother Frank took over as manager this year and has led them to glory on his maiden voyage.

Kid brother Joe laid down an earlier marker when he blasted a 20-metre free to the net after eight minutes.

Loughrea, playing with the wind, rallied with points from Johnny O'Loughlin, Jamie Ryan and Neil Keary, but they were rocked eight minutes from the break when Ollie Canning and Damien Hayes sent Andy Smith through for an excellent goal from a tight angle.

Keary hit five points in the opening half for Loughrea and John Maher became their sixth forward to score before the break as they went in level at 0-11 to 2-5 at the interval.

But Portumna took over after the restart and two points from Joe Canning, frees and one apiece from Andy Smith and Ollie Canning pushed them ahead.

Ryan and Hayes swapped points, but Portumna never looked back once Hayes set up his brother Damien for their third goal 12 minutes from the end of a good contest excellently refereed by John Keane.

The memory of Galway hurler Niall Donohue, who died in tragic circumstances on Wednesday night, two days before his 23rd birthday, was not far from people's minds and there was a minute's silence before the match and sustained applause at the presentation of the cup in his honour.

NUMB

Smith, who played on the Galway team with him, said he could not believe the news when he was told after training on Wednesday night.

"Whatever about it being sad for us, it's so devastating for the whole Kilbeacanty community looking over the last few days.

"They are left numb and trying to pick up the pieces.

"Niall was just a great, great fella. He was a massive man and he is going to be a massive loss. He was just such a great fella and had great attributes. And I'm just so sorry for him," added man of the match Smith.

Scorers – Portumna: A Smith, J Canning (1-3fs) 1-5 each, D Hayes 1-1, O Canning 0-1. Loughrea: N Keary 0-5 (4fs), J O'Loughlin, J Ryan, J Coen (0-1pen) 0-2 each, G Keary, P Hoban, J Maher 0-1 each.

Portumna – J Keane; M Ryan, E McEntee, G Heagney; C O'Hare, M Dolphin, E Lynch; L Smith, J Canning; K Hayes, D Hayes, O Canning; A Smith, R O'Meara, N Hayes. Subs: P Smith for L Smith (h-t), O Royston for O'Meara (62), O Treacy for Ryan (62).

Loughrea – N Murray; E Mahony, D McClearn, T Regan; S Sweeney, B Mahony, V Maher; E Mahony, G Keary; N Keary, P Hoban, J Coen; J O'Loughlin, J Maher, J Ryan. Sub: T Hoban for E Mahony (42).

REF – J Keane (Rahoon).

Irish Independent

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