Canning brothers to the fore as Portumna reach fifth All-Ireland club final

Fintan O'Toole

JOE CANNING STRUCK 0-9 and his brother Ollie was named man-of-the-match as Portumna reached their fifth AIB All-Ireland senior club hurling final today.

The three-times champions will be chasing a fourth title on St Patrick’s Day after they overcame Limerick’s Na Piarsaigh in their semi-final clash in difficult conditions at Semple Stadium in Thurles.

The Canning brothers were central to the success but youngster Ronan O’Meara also caught the eye as he grabbed 1-2 in the opening period to help set the Galway champions on the road to victory.

Though named at full-forward, Joe largely played around the middle where he worked hard and popped up with crucial points throughout. But he was fortunate to only receive a yellow card in the first-half for what looked like a striking incident.

The result was a huge disappointment to Na Piarsaigh who never managed to replicate their stunning form when they won the Munster championship last November. For the second time in three years they suffered the disappointment of an All-Ireland semi-final loss

They were rocked with the concession of the early goal when O’Meara did well to finish to the net after a neat Portumna move. But Na Piarsaigh got back into contention as the half progressed. They trailed by 1-2 to 0-4 at the end for the first quarter and took the lead before a Canning free leveled the teams at 1-6 to 0-9 at the interval.

Damien Hayes grabbed an early second-half point for Portumna but that was cancelled out by a sublime sideline cut by youngster Ronan Lynch, his second of the day, for Na Piarsaigh. The teams were deadlocked at 1-7 to 0-10 with 36 minutes elapsed before Portumna took a grip on the game and outscored their opponents by 0-7 to 0-1 over the course of the next 15 minutes.

Joe Canning was central to that scoring burst as he hit five points with Kevin Hayes and Andy Smith striking the others. Portumna’s interplay was superior as they adjusted to the difficult conditions.

Na Piarsaigh got a lifeline when substitute John Madden was fouled in the closing moments and Shane Dowling smashed the resultant penalty to the net. But Canning sealed Portumna’s victory with a late pointed free.

Pic: INPHO/Donall Farmer

Scorers for Portumna: Joe Canning 0-9 (0-7f, 0-1 sideline), Ronan O’Meara 1-2, Ollie Canning, Damien Hayes, Kevin Hayes, Andy Smith 0-1 each.

Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: Shane Dowling 1-4 (1-0 pen, 0-4f), Ronan Lynch 0-3 (0-2 sideline), Kevin Downes 0-2, Kevin Ryan, Pat Gleeson 0-1 each.

PORTUMNA: Joe Keane; Conor O’Hare, Eugene McEntee, Gareth Heagney; Peter Smith, Martin Dolphin, Eoin Lynch; Leo Smith, Andrew Smith; Kevin Hayes, Damien Hayes, Ollie Canning; Ronan O’Meara, Joe Canning, Niall Hayes.

Subs: Owen Treacy for Niall Hayes (60).

NA PIARSAIGH: Padraic Kennedy; Kieran Breen, Cathal King, Michael Casey; James O’Brien, David Breen, Niall Buckley; Alan Dempsey, William O’Donoghue; Kieran Kennedy, Kevin Downes, David Dempsey; Kevin Ryan, Shane Dowling, Ronan Lynch.

Subs: Pat Gleeson for Kennedy (26), David Sheppard for O’Donoghue (39), Brian Hartnett for David Dempsey (53), John Madden for O’Brien (53).

Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath).

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