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Portumna power on as Canning capitalises on let-off

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Joe Canning catches the ball despite the efforts of William O'Donoghue during the AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Club SHC semi-final at Semple Stadium

Joe Canning catches the ball despite the efforts of William O'Donoghue during the AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Club SHC semi-final at Semple Stadium

Ray Ryan / SPORTSFILE

Portumna's Gareth Heagney and Na Piarsaigh's David Dempsey scramble for the ball

Portumna's Gareth Heagney and Na Piarsaigh's David Dempsey scramble for the ball

Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Portumna's Joe Canning in action against Na Piarsaigh's Shane Dowling

Portumna's Joe Canning in action against Na Piarsaigh's Shane Dowling

Ray Ryan / SPORTSFILE

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Joe Canning catches the ball despite the efforts of William O'Donoghue during the AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Club SHC semi-final at Semple Stadium

NA Piarsaigh manager Sean Stack elected to hold his counsel when asked about the incident that could have seen Galway superstar Joe Canning sent off at Semple Stadium on Saturday.

Canning was fortunate to escape with just a yellow card from referee James McGrath when he drew across Na Piarsaigh's David Dempsey in the 22nd minute. The 25-year-old went on to stamp his class all over proceedings as Portumna claimed a place in their fifth All-Ireland club final – and first since 2010.

The three-time winners will be hot favourites to see off Mount Leinster Rangers, described as "the dream team" by Portumna manager Frank Canning.

But former Clare ace Stack and Na Piarsaigh are left to reflect on a second semi-final defeat in just three seasons, with Canning the headline-maker once again.

Stack admitted that he had not seen Canning's clash with Dempsey but when informed by reporters that it was a red-card offence, he said that he had concerns over the referee before the throw-in.

"I'll hold my thoughts on that one. We were a bit worried about him (McGrath) before the match, to be honest about it. But we didn't say that to him. He's a good referee and he did the best he could."

Stack admitted that it was Portumna's greater know-how and composure in dreadful weather conditions that got them over the line.

Ollie Canning winning a late free converted by Joe, after Na Piarsaigh had come back within three points, illustrated that point perfectly.

Shane Dowling's 56th-minute goal from a penalty handed Na Piarsaigh a lifeline but Ollie drew a foul at a vital time and Joe drilled over his ninth point of the game to seal Portumna's passage to Croke Park on St Patrick's Day.

Stack said: "I didn't get the free count in the first half but I know it was totally lopsided.

"I wouldn't blame James (McGrath) the referee for that one bit. It was just that Portumna knew how to pull frees.

"They left their hands open, ran in with their chests to shoulders. A shoulder into the chest is a free, I understand that, but they knew perfectly how to do it.

"I think the tackle really has to be looked at. If you open your shoulder and run into a stationary figure, into his shoulder, why should that be a free? A stationary man can't cause a free I reckon."

Stack reckoned that Portumna were adept at winning that kind of free in the first half, as they battled against a strong breeze after winning the toss.

And on an evening like this, the toss, according to Stack, was everything. But Na Piarsaigh, just like in 2012 against Loughgiel Shamrocks, were on the wrong end of the coin and ultimately, the result.

ACCEPTABLE

At half-time, they were on terms, 1-6 to 0-9, and that was a wholly acceptable result in the circumstances.

Ronan O'Meara, a Galway minor, hit 1-2 to signal his rich promise but Na Piarsaigh had their own young shooting star in the form of Ronan Lynch, a late call-up in place of 42-year-old veteran Damien Quigley.

Lynch was Munster GAA's minor hurler of the year in 2013 and the 17-year-old, who has driven Ardscoil Rís to a Harty Cup final notched 0-3, including two points from sideline cuts that Canning, who registered a trademark effort himself, would have been proud of.

The spoils went to Portumna, however, and manager Frank Canning is relishing the prospect of another All-Ireland final appearance.

He remarked: "We always felt there was another one in us. We're only in it though, nothing won yet. The dream team are on the other side."

Scorers – Portumna: J Canning 0-9 (7fs, 1 sl), R O'Meara 1-2, A Smith, K Hayes, O Canning, D Hayes 0-1 each. Na Piarsaigh: S Dowling 1-4 (1-0 pen, 0-4fs), R Lynch 0-3 (2 sls), K Downes 0-2, K Ryan, P Gleeson 0-1 each.

PORTUMNA – J Keane; C O'Hare, E McEntee, G Heagney; P Smith, M Dolphin, E Lynch; L Smith, A Smith; K Hayes, D Hayes, O Canning; R O'Meara, J Canning, N Hayes. Sub: O Treacy for N Hayes (60).

NA PIARSAIGH – P Kennedy; K Breen, C King, M Casey; N Buckley, D Breen, J O'Brien; A Dempsey, W O'Donoghue; K Kennedy, K Downes, D Dempsey; K Ryan, S Dowling, R Lynch. Subs: P Gleeson for Kennedy (27), D Sheppard for O'Donoghue (37), B Hartnett for Dempsey (53), J Madden for O'Brien (53).

Ref – J McGrath (Westmeath).

Irish Independent