THEY say there’s no show like a Joe show and that certainly proved the case in Loughrea on Saturday evening as Portumna ace Joe Canning’s 0-15 haul led his side to a 10-point victory over Gort.
A devastating opening quarter where the four-time All-Ireland champions hit last year’s county finalists for 2-7 laid the foundations for this hugely impressive victory for Portumna against a Gort side who despite the loss, advance straight through to the quarter-finals.
In that opening quarter in particular, Portumna looked back to their imperious best. Knowing that victory was essential if his side were to have any chance of progression, manager Brendan Gantley took the decision to throw off the shackles and go for it, loading his forward line with an array of attacking talent that would not look out of place in an inter-county set up.
The return of Conor O’Hare to the man the ‘D’ from full-back allowed Portumna to push Andy Smith out of defence up to the half forward line, but it was Canning at centre-forward who made Portumna tick all day.
For it wasn’t just his points haul, Canning was all over the place for his side, dropping back in to defence on occasions to assist the veteran duo of Ollie Canning and Leo Smith, who controlled the middle of the park like they were guys just out of U-21. The younger of the Canning brothers even set up a second half point for Kevin ‘Chunky’ Hayes with a clearance from his own full-back line.
But despite the brilliance of this display, the question remains – has it come too late? As things stand, Turloughmore’s victory over Padraig Pearses, coupled with St Thomas’ narrow win against Sarsfields sees them progress to the preliminary quarter-finals at Portumna’s expense.
Of course all is not lost yet for Portumna. The case involving the eligibility of a Turloughmore player who lined out when the two sides met in June is still ongoing and were that game to be declared null and void, Turlough would be deducted two points and Portumna would progress at their expense.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.