/ GAA

Portumna 5-11 Ballyhale Shamrocks 1-16

Updated: Sunday, 22 Feb 2009 20:55

Portumna's Joe Canning celebrates netting his second goal at Semple Stadium
Portumna's Joe Canning celebrates netting his second goal at Semple Stadium

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Portumna remain on track to defend their AIB All-Ireland Club SHC title after they blitzed Ballyhale Shamrocks at Semple Stadium this afternoon.

The Galway side were 3-07 to 1-07 to the good at the break thanks to goals from Damien Hayes and Joe Canning (2), with Ballyhale's response coming from Eoin Reid.

The second half started slowly, but Portumna sealed their place in the final with two quickfire goals from Hayes and Ciaran Ryan. Henry Shefflin tried his best from frees, but the hill was too steep for Shamrocks in front of a crowd of 10,726 at the Thurles venue.

<notforsyndication>View our gallery of today's two semi-finals. </notforsyndication>

The first ten minutes were utterly compelling as Portumna set about their task brilliantly. The Galway champions hit the front inside the first 50 seconds when Kevin Hayes fired over the bar.

Portumna followed that up with a goal two minutes later as Damien Hayes' effort flew into the far corner and into the net via a fortunate bounce off the upright.

The Westerners went five points clear courtesy of a monster point from Leo Smith from behind his own 65-metre line.

Portumna were given the chance to go eight points clear when Shamrocks keeper James Connolly came out high with his hurl on Damien Hayes. Joe Canning duly obliged with the penalty, rifling his shot low and hard to the net at the Town End.

Colm Fennelly opened Ballyhale's account with a point but Niall Hayes soon cancelled that out.

Ballyhale got themselves back in the game in the eighth minute when Shefflin made an incisive run at the heart of the Portumna defence before handpassing off to Eoin Reid, who wasted no time in flashing a shot to the net.

Corner-forward Mark Aylward added two points inside a minute for the Leinster champions, who found themselves just a goal in arrears despite their awful start.

Two Joe Canning points, the first from a '65 and the second from a free, had Portuma five points clear again, but Shefflin matched that at the other end with two converted frees of his own.

Portumna full-forward Canning grabbed his second goal of the game in the 21st minute when he nipped in between goalkeeper and defender to flick the sliotar into the unguarded net.

The 20-year-old then produced one of his trademark sideline cuts to put Portumna 3-07 to 1-06 ahead before Colm Fennelly dissected the posts to leave six points between the sides at the break.

Unsurprisingly, the second period began at a less frenetic pace, and five minutes had elapsed before Damien Hayes pointed to put Portumna four points ahead. The game was all but over by the 37th minute when Hayes grabbed his second goal after he followed up on a brilliant save by Connolly and Ciaran Ryan also rippled the net when he did the needful after Joe Canning's initial effort had come back off the post.

A Ballyhale point from David Hoyne was sandwiched in-between the two goals to leave the Kilkenny side trailing by 5-08 to 1-08.

Shamrocks rallied with six unanswered points, five from Shefflin and a sideline cut from TJ Reid, but Joe Canning ruined any chance of an amazing comeback when he landed an effortless point from the right sideline to restore a seven-point lead for Portumna with seven minutes remaining and put them within touching distance of back-to-back All-Ireland titles.

They now meet Waterford and Munster champions De La Salle, who overcame Cushendall in the day's other epic semi-final at Parnell Park, in the final at Croke Park on St Patrick's Day.

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