It is to Portumna’s credit that they managed to pull level with three minutes remaining in Athenry when Kevin Hayes rattled the net but anything other than a Gort win would have been a travesty.
You’d wonder, though, what Aidan Harte thought when he saw inter-county colleague Joe Canning trot over to him before the ball was thrown in.
Harte lined out with the No 5 on his back, but No 14 Canning was to be his man for the day.
No doubt they’d knocked spots off each other in the last few years in training, but Harte followed him diligently and defended his advances superbly.
It was only in the last nine minutes that he relinquished the duty when Canning finally found himself at full forward. Harte’s taming of Portumna’s key man was crucial in deciding the outcome.
“What a fantastic game, not a bad belt, no stoppages, nothing. What a team Portumna are, they threw everything at us today,” said man of the match Harte.
“We are the younger team and we thought we would be fresher in the end, and I suppose it did prove that way. The win is unbelievable.”
Playing a county final 11 days before Christmas Day presents its difficulties, and top of the list was Portumna’s nine week wait since their semi-final win over Craughwell.
Two weekends ago Gort overcame Beagh to finally confirm Portumna’s opponents, but gone was the accurate touch, the slick interplay of their forwards and the crucial match sharpness that was their trademark at their peak.
Manager Michael Monaghan refused to blame their defeat on this inactivity and insisted his team lost to the better side.
“It was nine weeks today since we played, it took its toll. Before the game we didn’t know our form, we didn’t know how we were going. It’s no fault of our lads, but it’s hard on them. But the better team won on the day, they adapted better to the conditions,” said Monaghan.
Like many of his teammates, Canning was a little off colour though. He did hit four first half points, but also missed the target with two straightforward frees, as Gort made the most of their wind advantage to take a 0-9 to 0-5 lead into the break.
Richie Cummins did the early damage for Gort with a couple of good points from play, but it was Gerry Quinn’s accuracy from the ground that saw Gort lead by four at the break.
Damien Hayes too, had been quiet in the first half, but started the second like a whirlwind with two excellent points to close the gap to 0-9 to 0-7. Canning and Quinn traded frees as the battle meandered along, and Gort maintained their advantage with nine minutes remaining.
But when Ollie Canning was first to a Niall Hayes shot that came back off the post, and his sublime handpass was followed up with a volley to the net by Kevin Hayes, the game was level.
But Gort didn’t fold, as Walsh and Mullins delivered the killer blows.
Scorers for Gort: G Quinn 0-7 (7f), A Mullins, W Walsh 1-0 each, G Lally (1f), R Cummins 0-2 each, A Harte, P Killilea 0-1 each.
Scorers for Portumna: J Canning 0-6 (4f); K Hayes 1-0, D Hayes 0-2, O Canning, R O’Meara 0-1 each.
GORT: G Lally; M McMahon, T Linnane, M Cummins; A Harte, G Lally, S Og Linnane; S Forde, Jason Grealish; M Mullins, A Mullins, P Killilea; G O’Donoghue, R Cummins, G Quinn.
Subs: C Helebert for Jason Grealish (46), W Walsh for O’Donoghue (48), N Forde for S Forde (54), Jack Grealish for Mullins (62).
PORTUMNA: J Keane; G Heagney, C O’Hare, P Smith; O Treacy, M Dolphin, E Lynch; L Smith, D Hayes, J Canning; K Hayes, O Canning; N Hayes, R O’Meara, A Smith.
Subs: P Dolphin for L Smith (50-51 blood), P Dolphin for O’Meara (56).
Referee: Christy Browne.