Cool Portumna playing down talk of three-peat

OLLIE CANNING has promised there will be no loose talk about three-in-a-rows in the Portumna camp before next month’s All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling final against Kilkenny’s Ballyhale Shamrocks.

Such an achievement would be unique in the annals of the club game as no hurling or football side has achieved the feat in the competition’s history.

The most consistent run of success in either code was Crossmaglen’s three football titles in four years in the late 1990s and, having claimed wins in 2006, 2008 and 2009, Portumna have already equalled that feat.

It is another tempting carrot for a club that only graduated to the senior ranks in Galway in the early 1990s but Canning is adamant that thoughts of making history will not cloud their approach to St Patrick’s Day.

“It will probably be in the backs of peoples’ minds coming to the final, maybe more so with the supporters than the players. If we start thinking like that, we could lose our focus. You have to go out and perform minute by minute and whoever plays better on the day and cuts down their mistakes will win. There won’t be any loose talk about three-in-a-row or any of that craic. That won’t win the game for you.”

Canning’s focus may be on the nuts and bolts but that is not to say that he can’t appreciate the bigger picture which is that of a club enjoying almost unprecedented success on the local and national stages. Prior to 2003 and their first senior county title, few in Galway — let alone beyond — had given more than a fleeting thought to the club that has come to dominate the game.

Canning agreed: “It is fantastic to be involved at this stage. We won a minor back in 1998 and we brought through seven or eight players from that side who are the core of this team today.

“We were a long time trying to get to this level. We are trying to enjoy it because all the great teams that have come from Galway before us have had their time at the top but we know that someone will eventually come and knock us off our perch. That day will come but, while we are there, we are enjoying it.”

And yet, they were perfunctory rather than polished against Dunloy on Sunday in Parnell Park, despite the fact that they greeted the final whistle with a more-than-comfortable 12-point cushion.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game and there would be periods where they would dominate. We just didn’t panic. There as no giving out and thankfully we got a few scores to finish the game well.

“The scoreboard probably doesn’t reflect how physical the game was. It was very tight and exchanges were good and hard. We are happy with the workout and to get the win.”

Awaiting them in the final will be a Ballyhale side that must be overjoyed at the prospect of a rematch after Portumna emptied a five-goal salvo on them in last year’s semi-final in Thurles.

Canning, unsurprisingly, was reluctant to talk up the rivalry between the two clubs.

“Newtown are a fine team as well and I know it was tight enough coming up to the last few minutes of that game. We weren’t thinking about who we were going to meet in the final. We were fully focused on getting through the semi-final. Ballyhale have come through on the other side so we are looking forward to what will be a rematch of last year’s semi-final. I’m sure they are looking forward to having a pop at us again.”


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