Sunday 21 January 2018

Portumna hold edge

AIB All-Ireland SH club final

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

IT'S unusual for a Kilkenny hurling team to be outsiders in an All-Ireland final and rarer still for them to be priced as long as 13/8.

It gets even more curious when the team in question features Henry Shefflin, the man who led Kilkenny to their last three All-Ireland senior titles, has won three of the last four Leinster club titles, plus an All-Ireland club crown in 2007.

So what's behind Ballyhale Shamrocks' outsider status? It's not so much a lack of faith, but a belief that Portumna's pursuit of a historic three-in-a-row is built on the most solid of foundations.

They have won three of the last four titles and while Ballyhale won the intervening one, they were well beaten by Portumna in last year's semi-final. It turned into a Portumna goal-fest, as they hit Ballyhale for five in the first 40 minutes on a day when Joe Canning and Henry Shefflin got more than 50pc of the scores between them.

History shows that goal bursts are rarely replicated next time around. Conceding five goals was a major cave-in by the Ballyhale defence, but it has been much more secure in the current campaign, including in the semi-final win over Newtownshandrum who failed to score any goals.

Of course, facing Canning, Damien Hayes and the rest of a prolific Portumna attack will present the Ballyhale defence with a different level of challenge, just as Shefflin, 'Cha' Fitzpatrick, Michael Fennelly, TJ and Eoin Reid will be much tougher opposition than anything Portumna have encountered for over a year.

A Portumna win would earn them the distinction of being the first club in either code to win the three-in-a-row while Ballyhale are seeking to be the first to win the hurling title for a fifth time.

Last clash: Portumna 5-11 Ballyhale 1-16 (2009 All-Ireland semi-final).

Odds: Portumna 4/7; Ballyhale 13/8; Draw 9/1.

Previous All-Ireland wins: Ballyhale -- 4 (1981-84-90-2007); Portumna -- 3 (2006-2008-2009).

Verdict: Portumna.

Portumna v Ballyhale Shamrocks,

Live, TG4, 2.0

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