Portumna double hailed by Canning
Portumna 1-18 Gort 2-7
No howling epithets for Portumna in Pearse Stadium yesterday, just a solemn contentment at business smartly done.
They've known county final day to dissolve into a swirl of testosterone, so back-to-back Galway titles represents no mean feat for the All-Ireland champions.
This is their first time to successfully defend the crown and, with it, came a stirring sense of vindication.
"A big monkey off our back," was how marksman-in-chief Joe Canning described the capture of Portumna's fourth county title. He elaborated thus: "Nobody was giving us any credit in Galway and I suppose that's a big thing for us, to put this to bed.
"It's sad to say how much we've won and it's still not good enough for the people in Galway. Now maybe people might realise that we are a good team."
That fact was established long before yesterday's engaging tussle (attendance 10,200) with a young Gort team that, full-forward Ollie Fahy apart, would not have looked out of place in the minor curtain-raiser.
This was Gort's first final since '83 and the team that won 25 years ago, replete with the indestructible Sylvie Linnane, was honoured before yesterday's decider.
Two of Linnane's sons lined out in the main event and one of them -- team-captain Tadhg -- spent a good deal of time shadowing the peerless Canning. It can be a thankless job at the best of times, but Linnane acquitted himself well, restricting the Young Hurler of the Year to three points from play.
Yet, if Canning wasn't quite putting Gort to the sword, Damien Hayes was an effervescent wonder, swooping in off either flank with the smooth grace of a hungry kestrel.
For a time, Gort looked capable of an upset, hunting in packs and compensating for any lack of polish with an incorrigible work ethic.
They had an early goal when 33-year-old Fahy finished one-handed to the net with just three minutes elapsed.
Fahy was being marked by Ollie Canning because of a late hamstring pull to Portumna's regular full-back, Eugene McEntee and Canning, for all his lovely, larcenous flicks, is no full-back.
So, Fahy's wily movement looked a profitable route for Gort to go and he added a point in the 10th minute from a smart Niall Linnane hand-pass.
Portumna just could not find their natural coherence, their hurling hurried, their striking poor. Joe Canning, mind, occasionally reminded us of their best, floating over a wonder score from the left sideline in the 11th minute, then drifting a sublime line-cut over from the right flank six minutes later.
There was always a sense that the champions would, ultimately, stretch into a clearing, yet Gort were obstinate opponents. As Canning put it later; "Fair dues to them, they gave it to us. They worked like dogs."
By now, Gort had abandoned the gamble of siting regular midfielder, Aidan Harte, at corner-back and, two minutes short of half-time, Gerry Quinn buried a 20-metre free to send the teams in level at the break.
McEntee came in in place of Michael Gill for the resumption and, with him anchoring the Portumna square, Ollie Canning and young Martin Dolphin were liberated to hurl freely from the corners.
Eleven minutes after the re-start, Portumna were gifted a goal when Andrew Smith thieved the sliotar from Gort 'keeper Peter Cummins and scored at the second attempt. Thereafter, you could see belief drain from the challengers like grain from a sack. With nine minutes remaining, Ollie Canning came surging out of defence, caroming off would-be tacklers, to deliver a brilliant point for Portumna.
Gort did not register another score, though the elder Canning did have to intervene with a smart block as Fahy attempted to drop-kick a late goal.
The vanquished Fahy saw no injustice at the conclusion of business. "Their experience told," he said of Portumna. "We just found it hard to get the ball into the danger area.
"They really snuffed us out. But all the Gort lads are young hurlers. A lot of their fathers would have been out there today being remembered for the '83 win."
No blood on the floor in Galway then. Just the footprint of serious champions.
SCORERS -- Portumna: J Canning 0-10 (0-6 f, 0-1 line-cut), D Hayes 0-4, A Smith 1-0, N Hayes 0-2, L Smith, O Canning 0-1 each. Gort: G Quinn 1-3 (all frees), O Fahy 1-1, P Killilea, M Nestor and R Cummins 0-1 each.
PORTUMNA -- I Canning; M Gill, O Canning, M Dolphin; G Heagney, M Ryan, A O'Donnell; E Lynch, L Smith; N Hayes, K Hayes, A Smith; D Hayes, J Canning, C Ryan. Subs: E McEntee for Gill (half-time), P Smith for Ryan (60 mins).
GORT -- P Cummins; A Harte, T Linnane, A Coen; G Lally, B Regan, S Og Linnane; N Forde, S Forde; G Quinn, P Killilea, M Nestor; R Cummins, O Fahy, N Linnane. Subs: M Cummins for N Forde (26 mins), M Moran for Quinn (55 mins), D Linnane for N Linnane (55 mins).
Ref -- S Moran (Abbeyknockmoy).