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Cannings lead Portumna charge

 CHAMPIONS: Portumna players celebrate with the cup after victory over Loughrea in the Galway SHC final.Picture: Sportsfile

Portumna 3-12 Loughrea 0-14
There have been many great days over the past decade for Portumna and yesterday was a special one for the Cannings from Gortanumera as they claimed their sixth Galway SHC title.

Ollie Canning was captain when they won their first crown in 2003 and yesterday, looking as sprightly as ever, the 37-year-old walked the steps for the fourth time to collect the Tom Callanan Cup.

Older brother Frank took over as manager this year in a bid to rediscover the glory days which ended after they contested their seventh successive county final in 2009, and has now led them to glory in his maiden voyage.

And then there is the kid brother Joe. He set the tone with a goal from a free after eight minutes and hurled for most of the day out the field in a game in which they never trailed.

They celebrated at the end like it was 2003 all over again but after the barren few years this was a welcome return to silverware for a club which packed more success into the past decade than others might in a century.

But while Portumna partied, Loughrea licked their wounds yet again and if Portumna have packed enormous success into the past decade, then Loughrea have suffered more heartbreak than most.

Yesterday’s defeat was their sixth county final loss since 2003 and their fourth in the last five years.

But, in truth, they never looked like ousting Portumna here and the concession of two goals in the opening half when they had the wind meant they turned around level. And it was downhill from there.

Loughrea rallied after Canning’s early goal with points from Johnny O’Loughlin, Jamie Ryan and Neil Keary, but they were rocked eight minutes from the break when Ollie Canning and Damien Hayes sent Andy Smith through for an excellent goal.

Neil Keary hit five points in the opening half for Loughrea and Johnny Maher became their sixth forward to score before the break and they went in level at 0-11 to 2-5 at the interval.

But Portumna took over after the restart and two points from Joe Canning frees and one apiece from Andy Smith and Ollie Canning pushed them ahead.

Jamie Ryan and Damien Hayes swapped points but Portumna never looked back once Niall Hayes set up brother Damien for their third goal 12 minutes from the end of a contest watched by 9,262 and where the sensible refereeing of John Keane was welcome.

Ollie Canning said they would celebrate this win and then turn their attentions to bidding for a fourth All-Ireland club title after Christmas.

"We are going to enjoy this. We haven’t had a day like this for a lot of years, so the guys deserve it. We’ll relax, try and get the injuries fixed before Christmas and then we’ll be back after Christmas. We’ll worry about it at that stage."

He paid tribute to his brother Frank for stepping in as manager and guiding them back to the summit at the first time of asking.

"It’s a very tough position. There is a couple of us involved and there is always the factor there that he was worried that people would be saying he was too close to the team. But we spoke, it’s all business when it comes to hurling, him as manager and us as players. That’s the way we treat him, we treat him as any other manager.

"He got on well with all the lads, training went well and we were very happy. We were well prepared. Noel Larkin came in as trainer a couple of years ago. I’m happy for him as well. We didn’t have success the last few years but he stuck with us.

"I’m delighted for everybody in the management team and the players as well," added the Portumna captain.

Scorers for Portumna: A Smith 1-5, J Canning 1-5 (1-3f), D Hayes 1-1, O Canning 0-1.

Scorers for Loughrea: N Keary 0-5 (4f), J O’Loughlin, J Ryan & J Coen (0-1pen) 0-2 each, G Keary, P Hoban & J Maher 0-1 each.

PORTUMNA: J Keane; M Ryan, E McEntee, G Heagney; C O’Hare, M Dolphin, E Lynch; L Smith, J Canning; K Hayes, D Hayes, O Canning; A Smith, R O’Meara, N Hayes.

Subs: P Smith for L Smith (h-t), O Royston for O’Meara (62), O Treacy for Ryan (62).

LOUGHREA: N Murray; E Mahony, D Mc Clearn, T Regan; S Sweeney, B Mahony, V Maher; E Mahony, G Keary; N Keary, P Hoban, J Coen; J O’Loughlin, J Maher, J Ryan.

Sub: T Hoban for E Mahony (42).

Referee: John Keane (Rahoon).

Poignant scenes as Donohue remembered

There were poignant scenes at the county hurling final at Pearse Stadium in Salthill yesterday as tributes were paid to Galway hurler Niall Donohue, who died suddenly last week, aged just 22.

A minute’s silence was observed prior to the start of the match between Portumna and Loughrea, with the final being switched from Sunday to yesterday.

The funeral of the hurler, who died in tragic circumstances on Wednesday, took place on Sunday.

Hurling board chairman Joe Byrne paid tribute to the late hurler prior to the presentation of the cup after the game, and there was a sustained round of applause from the crowd of over 9,000.

The chairman saluted the GAA community for the way they rallied to support the Donohue family in Kilbeacanty.

And Andy Smith, who played on the Galway team with Donohue, spoke of the shock when he heard the news on Wednesday night.

Portumna team manager Frankie Canning recalled how he pulled the three county players with the club aside — Joe Canning and Damien Hayes are the others — and broke the dreadful news.

"We were training and had just came in off the park and Frankie called myself Joe and Damien over. He said it to us that Niall had passed away. I just didn’t believe it at the start," Smith recalled.

"I went in and togged in and it didn’t sink in until the next morning when I was driving to work and I heard a tribute on the radio and it just hit me like that. I just couldn’t believe it."

Portumna captain and former All-Star Ollie Canning said the death had sent shockwaves through the county.

"It is very, very sad. No words can describe how everyone was feeling in Galway for his family, for the club in Kilbeacanty and for the county of Galway as a whole. Niall was a special talent. He was a great player, he wore his heart on his sleeve every day he went out. For the short time he was here he left some great memories. He’ll never be forgotten," he said.