Portumna lay down a marker with big win over Sarsfields

Jeffrey Lawless of Sarsfields moves in to try and block Portumna's Andy Smith in Loughrea on Sunday. Photos: Hany Marzouk.
Jeffrey Lawless of Sarsfields moves in to try and block Portumna's Andy Smith in Loughrea on Sunday. Photos: Hany Marzouk.

Portumna 3-17

Sarsfields 1-11

There may have not have been too many questions over Portumna’s title aspirations following their surprising first-round SHC draw against Padraig Pearses but, nevertheless, they still obviously felt a need to set the record straight as they emphatically brushed aside the challenge of 2015 champions Sarsfields in Loughrea on Sunday.

To the fore in this impressive showing was Galway star Joe Canning who hit 2-9 of his side’s total – his goals on 7 and 15 minutes establishing and cementing a lead that, given the industrious nature of their play, was never going to be overturned.

Indeed, by the end of the first quarter, Brendan Gantley’s outfit led 2-5 to 0-2 and, in truth, this game was over. When one of the next generation of Cannings – Jack – added a cracking goal to make it 3-11 to 0-9 on 38 minutes, it sparked an exodus among the neutrals in Loughrea who now headed to Duggan Park, Ballinasloe for the evening games.

As the neutrals were heading out the gate, they would also have caught a glimpse of younger Canning Jack and his uncle Joe each clipping over fine points to leave it 3-13 to 0-9 heading into the final quarter.

It really was a powerful display by four-time All-Ireland club champions Portumna – reminiscent of the glory days – and a reminder that they are far from a spent force. In fact, the way they set up and went about their business underlined just how astute they are at getting the maximum out of their resources.

For one, they are not the youngest team in the championship but they are definitely one of the most intelligent and their understanding of time, space, movement and, more importantly, of each other’s roles was evident throughout this fixture.

Secondly, they are strong down the middle. Captain Andrew Smith has moved to full-back in their opening two outings – with Eoin Lynch redeployed to wing-back – and both players looked refreshed and reinvigorated by the switch.

Martin Dolphin once again hurled a storm from centre-half back and with Joe Canning and Leo Smith running midfield, Portumna were able to generate serious momentum going forward.

For it was not just Joe and Jack Canning who were shooting the lights out. Ronan O’Meara – his touch on Sunday was absolutely sublime – was also in super form and he finished the contest with three points from play. Others on the scoresheet were Kevin Hayes, Patrick Dolphin, Ivan Canning and substitute Oisin Royston. Quite simply, Portumna were buzzing.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.