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Triumphant Hayes boys dedicate win to mother

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Portumna's Damien Hayes (left) battles it out with Birr’s Michael Verney during the All-Ireland Club Senior Hurling Championship final.

Portumna's Damien Hayes (left) battles it out with Birr’s Michael Verney during the All-Ireland Club Senior Hurling Championship final.

Portumna's Damien Hayes (left) battles it out with Birr’s Michael Verney during the All-Ireland Club Senior Hurling Championship final.

NOREEN Hayes couldn't attend yesterday's All-Ireland club hurling final because of illness but she would have been mighty proud of her sons Damien and Niall as they helped steer Portumna back to the summit of All-Ireland club hurling.

They dedicated the win to their mother and were planning to bring the Tommy Moore Cup to visit her in Galway hospital on their return last night.

"We promised her that we'd bring the Cup back and we've kept our word. It has been a tough time but that win will lift everybody's spirits," said Damien who scored 1-3 in one of those exhibitions of forward excellence that he does so well.

If the Hayes boys gave their mother a personal boost, the entire team thrilled Portumna and its surrounds by winning the title for the second time in three seasons.

"This is the greatest day on the hurling calendar. Winning an All-Ireland final in Croke Park on St Patrick's Day is as good as it gets. We did it in style in the end, even if we had a bit of a scare early on but once we got going, we never took our foot off the pedal," said Damien.

At the age of 19, Joe Canning has picked up two All-Ireland club titles, having made a significant contribution to both successes. He landed 10 points yesterday, including one from a sideline cut and another from a massive distance.

The longest point you ever hit Joe? "Don't know to be honest, I didn't step it. I had a fair wind behind me."

But then it always looks as if he has a fair wind in his back, leading inevitably to the question as to whether he'll join the Galway panel this year.

"We'll see. I'll celebrate this win first and see what happens then," he remarked.

While Canning is certain to have many big Croke Park dates in future years, this may have been Brian Whelahan's last big occasion on a ground he adorned for so long. Unfortunately, it ended with him being sent off in stoppage time for an offence born of pure frustration.

Clearly annoyed with himself, he admitted to being very disappointed by the incident. "Stupid at this stage of my life," was his honest assessment.

As for the game itself, Whelahan summed it up succinctly. "We started well but when they got going, we stood off them too much. They inflicted their running game on us and we couldn't get to grips with them. The best team won -- it's as simple as that."