Club Hurling Final

AIB All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Semi-Final
Loughmore-Castleiney 2-9
Portumna 2-13 

In front of 5,600 spectators at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick, Joe Canning showed no ill-effects of the hamstring problem which had threatened his participation in this fixture and added six second half points to the 1-3 he pilfered before half-time.  Portumna led by ten points, 2-11 to 0-7, with eight minutes of normal time remaining before late goals from Micheal Webster and teen sensation Noel McGrath ensured a nervy finish.

But despite clawing back to within three points of the winners with a minute left, the result was never really in doubt and a gracious Loughmore-Castleiney manager Eamon Sweeney admitted afterwards that the goals merely added gloss to the scoreline.  The Tipperary and Munster champions certainly weren’t helped by the dismissal of corner back Paul Ormond fourteen minutes after half-time for a second bookable offence.

Ormond, an All-Ireland medallist with Tipperary in 2001, had been booked by fussy and overly-technical referee Anthony Stapleton in first half-stoppage time and paid the price when he floored Galway ace Damien Hayes with a frontal challenge.   Hayes was in the process of off-loading to goalscorer Kevin Hayes and after the ball finished up in the net, Stapleton sought out Ormond and brandished a yellow card, followed by the inevitable red.

It was uphill for Loughmore after that and Portumna duly advanced to a St Patrick’s Day meeting with four-time winners Birr.   There will be a real ‘derby’ feel to the March 17 showdown as the two teams are separated geographically by just 20 miles, with the North Tipperary village of Lorrha in between.

Portumna manager Jimmy Heverin confirmed after the game that the gifted Canning was given the all-clear last Monday night after receiving a second opinion in Dublin, and also gave the player his blessing to line out for defending champions Limerick IT as they look to defend the Fitzgibbon Cup in Cork next weekend.  

Yesterday’s game was by 13 yellow cards and one red dished out by Stapleton and as a result, an encounter which had earned a tasty pre-match billing was never allowed to flow.   Playing into a stiff breeze, Loughmore-Castleiney roared into an early 0-3 to 0-0 lead with the third point converted by McGrath from a 65 after Portumna goalkeeper Ivan Canning was penalised for pucking the ball out from outside the small parallelogram.

A similar award allowed Evan Sweeney to cut the gap to just three points with a minute of normal time remaining before a brace of injury-time scores from the prolific Canning made the game safe.   It was ace attacker Canning who had earleir tied the game at 1-0 to 0-3 with a sweet ninth-minute goal, finished after he raced past Loughmore full-back Derek Bourke before finding the net from close range.

At half-time, Portumna led 1-5 to 0-4 and facing the wind in the second half, the Connacht champions played it short and clever, while Eugene McEntee, Ollie Canning and Michael Ryan stood tallest in defence.   Loughmore did open the half with a point from Eddie Connolly after just 12 seconds but Canning supplied the game’s next three scores to push Portumna 1-8 to 0-5 in front.

Portumna then struck for a killer goal after 43 minutes when Niall Hayes finished superbly from 13 metres after taking a pass from brother Damien.   It was a double-whammy for Loughmore who lost Ormond to a second yellow card soon after and with eight minutes remaining, Portumna had cruised into a ten-point lead.

With eight minutes left Portumna led by ten points but credit Loughmore with a gutsy late finish which brought a degree of respectability to the scoreboard.   Five minutes from time, McGrath supplied Webster for a close range finish before the 17-year-old found the net himself in superb fashion after fetching a lengthy defensive delivery with two minutes left on the clock.

There was still time for Loughmore to move to within a goal of Portumna but the Galway champions, showing all of their know-how, put the game beyond reach with a late brace of points from Canning, whose brother David was denied a goal by a superb Johnny Gleeson save.

LOUGHMORE CASTLEINEY: J Gleeson; A Stapleton, D Bourke, P Ormond; E Ryan, D Kennedy, T King; C McGrath, G Sweeney; E Sweeney 0-3 (1f, 1 65), D McGrath, N McGrath 1-4 (2f, 1 65); E Connolly 0-1, M Webster 1-0, P Brennan.
SUB: D Brennan for P Brennan (52m).

PORTUMNA: I Canning; M Gill, E McEntee, O Canning; G Heagney, M Ryan, P Smith; L Smith, E Lynch; A Smith, K Hayes 0-2, N Hayes 1-0; D Hayes 0-1, J Canning 1-9 (6f), D Canning 0-1.
SUB: A O’Donnell for Gill (63m).

REFEREE: Anthony Stapleton (Laois)

Leave a Reply