Portumna’s flying start help to floor All-Ireland champions

Portumna 1-16 St. Thomas’ 2-11

STEPHEN GLENNON AT KENNY PARK

FIRST blood Portumna . . . the battle of the All-Ireland club champions was not for the faint hearted as three-time winners Portumna put the reigning holders St. Thomas’ to the sword in this fire and brimstone senior hurling championship group game at Kenny Park, Athenry on Sunday.

It may have seemed that there was nothing more than two championship points at stake – both are expected to emerge from a group that also includes Clarinbridge and Killimordaly – but, given the winning mentality of these two, you can be sure that pride was an even bigger incentive for both outfits.

Portumna’s hunger to return to the top table – and reassert themselves as the leading side in the county, whatever about the country – still burns brightly and they would have looked at St. Thomas’ as the usurpers to their throne.St. Thomas’, on the other hand, would have felt that they are the county and All-Ireland champions by right and that any notion to the contrary should be viewed as an insult to their pedigree.

The crown is theirs – and theirs alone – and Portumna or no Portumna they were not going to roll over. In the end, this was like two forces of nature colliding – or the splitting of an atom – and once St. Thomas’ hitman Conor Cooney scored a cracking goal on 20 minutes to put to bed a terrible opening period, it was game on.

By this stage, Portumna had raced into a 1-8 to 0-3 lead and it appeared as if the former champions were going to tear a sluggish St. Thomas’ to pieces. Quite simply, Francis Canning’s outfit were as clinical in their endeavours as they were in their shooting. It all had method. It all had an end product.Indeed, in the first quarter, Portumna were sublime in their movement, with – who else? – but Damien Hayes buzzing around and illuminating the game as he so often does.

After the lively Anthony Kelly scored a neat point on just 23 seconds for St. Thomas’, Hayes seized possession moments later and weaved his way towards goal. St. Thomas’ stickman David Burke tracked him closely, like a lion after a gazelle, and while he got in the initial hook on Hayes, the Portumna sharpshooter made no mistake in executing the second attempt. The clash of the titans was well and truly underway.

Read more in this week’s Connacht Tribune.