Hero's welcome: Joe Canning signing autographs for young St Molleran's GAA Club members.

Hero's welcome: Joe Canning signing autographs for young St Molleran's GAA Club members.

Portumna 1-19; Waterford 1-14

Three-in-a-row-chasing Portumna continued their preparations for an All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Dunloy by scoring an impressive five-point win over an experimental Waterford side in Carrickbeg last Saturday.

With Waterford having a Waterford Crystal Cup game against Clare on Sunday, manager Davy Fitzgerald used the visit of Joe Canning and co as an opportunity to give some of his fringe players an opportunity to test themselves against the best club team in the country.

Having been cup-tied for the Waterford Crystal cup following his commitments with WIT, Adrian Power returned between the posts. De La Salle’s highly rated corner-back Michael Doherty got a run in front of him while the Abbeyside pair of John Kindregan and John Hurney got their chance in the half-back line. In the forwards, there were several newcomers with Stradbally’s Shane Ahearne, Cappoquin’s Keith Landers and Lismore’s Chris O’Gorman given starting berths.

The game started perfectly for Waterford and for Mount Sion’s Martin O’Neill in particular. In the first minute of the game he picked up a pass from Michael Doherty and fired over a point, while a minute later he was on hand to tap in to the net following a excellent run from Chris O’Gorman.

Portumna are an excellent side and have been dubbed as the best club team of all time in many quarters and this understrength Waterford side found them hard to cope with. The pace of Damien Hayes and Andrew Smith caused a lot of bother in the Waterford defence while the skill of Joe Canning had to be admired.

Twice in the first half, Canning showed tremendous vision to pick out players who were making runs off the ball. Not only did he spot them, but Canning’s passes were inch-perfect, allowing Kieran Ryan and Damien Hayes to tap over simple points.

In the first-half, Waterford depended largely on Martin O’Neill’s efficiency from frees to keep them in touch with the Galway champions. The Deise boys did finish the half with a flourish and scored three unanswered points to go in level at half-time. One of these points was a monstrous free from Adrian Power which he sent over from at least 85 yards.

Turgid second half

In the first half the game was a largely open, entertaining affair. Unfortunately the second half descended into a turgid, bothersome encounter as a bit of needle crept in. Gary Hurney was involved in a couple of incidents, one with Eugene McEntee and another with Kevin Hayes. It did appear that referee Willie Barrett asked that Hurney and Hayes be replaced to keep a lid on things.

Waterford started the half brightly with the towering duo of Hurney and Shane Ahearne finding the target, but the young side appeared to lose their way for a time thereafter.

With Joe Canning firing passes all over the field as only he can, and Damien Hayes running with purpose at the Waterford defence, Portumna eventually got on top.

The men from southeast Galway sealed their victory in the 60th minute when Damien Hayes set up Andrew Smith who gave Adrian Power no chance as he fired to the back of the net.

Given that Portumna would probably beat many county teams, this was a useful exercise for this Waterford line-up. It gave many players an opportunity to test themselves at a higher level than what they normally play at. Of the new players, none performed better than De La Salle’s Michael Doherty who showed that he may be well capable of stepping up to a higher level. Inside him, Shane Fives coped quite admirably with the threat of Joe Canning, who did most damage when brought out the field.

Others to impress for Waterford were John Kindregan at wing-back and Martin O’Neill at corner-forward who was the pick of the Waterford team on the day. The young Mount Sion man finished with a total of 1-2 from play which was no mean feat considering that Ollie Canning was his marker.

*Footnote: The St Mollerans club must be complemented on their facilities which provided a wonderful venue for the game.

Waterford: Adrian Power, Michael Doherty, Shane Fives, Noel Connors, John Kindregan, Aidan Kearney, John Hurney, Eoin Whelan, Brian Phelan, Keith Landers, Nicky Jacob, Shane Ahearne, Martin O’Neill, Gary Hurney, Chris O’Gorman. Subs: Chris Ryan for A Kearney, Tyrone Costelloe for G Hurney.

Scorers: M O’Neill 1-9 (0-7f), N Jacob 0-2, A Power 0-1f, G Hurney 0-1, S Ahearne 0-1

Portumna: Ivan Canning, Aidan O’Donnell, Eugene McEntee, Ollie Canning, Eoin Lynch, Micheal Ryan, Peter Smith, Leo Smith, Kieran Ryan, Martin Dolphin, Kevin Hayes, Andrew Smith, David Canning, Joe Canning, Damien Hayes. Subs: Conor O’Hare for D Canning, Eamon Lynch for K Hayes.

Scorers: J Canning 0-9 (0-7f, 0-1 sideline) A Smith 1-2 (0-1f), D Hayes 0-3, K Ryan 0-2, L Smith 0-1, C O’Hare 0-1, Eamonn Lynch 0-1

Referee: Willie Barrett (Tipperary).