Canning wary of Antrim giants Dunloy
THERE aren't too many teams left in the country that the all-conquering Portumna have a score to settle with.
Their facile win over Loughrea in the Galway final last year meant the ghost of their controversial 2006 defeat was finally laid to rest while the manner of last February's win over Henry Shefflin's Ballyhale Shamrocks in the All-Ireland semi-final confirmed that Portumna are among the best club sides ever witnessed since the All-Ireland club competition began in the 1970-71 season.
However, Antrim champions Dunloy had three points to spare when the sides last met in the last-four clash in Clones in February 2004 and forward ace Joe Canning insists that despite entering the game as red-hot favourites, they won't be taking the northerners for granted.
"We're not stupid. We're not looking past Dunloy," Canning said. "Everyone says it's just an obstacle in our way but it's much bigger than that. We'll treat Dunloy like we would any other team. It's another game, another day.
"They beat us in 2003/04 championship up in Clones. We'll remember that going into the game. It'll be a tough game. They're Ulster champions and they beat Cushendall, who could have beaten De La Salle last year and gone on to the final. Obviously they are there on merit so we won't be taking them for granted."
Weather conditions have hit Portumna's preparations hard as the Galway side look to collect their third successive All-Ireland title.
"There's only five weeks left after this week so it's fast approaching. We only have really four weeks to work because the last week you don't do much. You won't feel time going. Hopefully it clears up because it's promising even worse over the next few days. It's not looking good for having challenge matches or getting pitches right. It's a hard time to prepare for a semi-final."
Canning was in Croke Park yesterday to launch the Marc Sports Helmet scrappage scheme, which allows players to trade in their old head gear for a new safety-approved helmet at a reduced rate.
New GAA legislation means that every hurler in the country has to wear a helmet from 2010 onwards with Kevin Hayes and Ivan Canning among the Portumna contingent who will have to get accustomed to wearing a helmet for their February showdown with the Antrim men.
"They wear it in training so they are getting used to it. It's not too big of a deal. I suppose you just have to get used to it. I know the bars can be a bit off putting but it's a thing they'll have to look at."