The Portlaoise Team and management celebrate their Senior Hurling Championship ‘A’ final win on Sunday. Photo Denis Byrne.
Clonaslee/St Manman’s 1-11
By Denis J. Croke
THIS will not go down as one of the most classic finals ever played in O’Moore Park, but that will not matter a whit to Portlaoise. John Taylor and his charges came to headquarters on Sunday with one aim, to make an immediate return to the premier hurling competition, and they achieved their aim.
While always looking the superior outfit, Portlaoise were made battle every inch of the way by an equally determined Clonaslee/St Manman’s. Even when Portlaoise held a six point advantage midway through the second half, that was halved when John Rowney struck a massive free to the top of the net.
They went on to trade points with Portlaoise up to the final whistle ensuring the Town could not rest on their laurels until the final whistle.
Portlaoise had wasted no time in getting the scoreboard ticking. Cian Taylor sent a long diagonal ball over to the ring wing which was gathered by Joe Phelan and he dissected the posts.
Ninety seconds later John Rowney picked up on a loose ball, picked out Mark Duggan to level. A minute later Clonaslee/St Manman’s were ahead after Rowney converted a free.
Eoin Costello had the sides together after seven minutes but in the interim Portlaoise had hit four of their nine first half wides.
Rowney and Joe Phelan went on to exchanged points to see them still together 13 minutes in but play was getting very scrappy. Over the next two minutes Clonaslee/St Manman’s shot two wides to Portlaoise’s one, but a Taylor free edged the Town back in front at the end of the quarter.
Between that and half time Portlaoise took control. Cian Taylor edged them ahead from a free, matched by a James Young free. Another Taylor free had the Town ahead again and when Aaron Bergin broke down a long delivery to sliotar broke to Joe Phelan and he hammered it to the net from 20 metres. Taylor added a point before the break when Portlaoise held a four-point advantage.
Within minutes of the restart that had increased by three, Cahir Healy, Tony Byrne and Phelan on target.
Darren Rooney and Duggan replied for Clonaslee while Tommy Fitzgerald kept the Town on track. A brace of John Rowney free further narrowed the gap while Aaron Bergin’s 42nd minute point left three between them them.
Then in a flash the sides were level after Rowney send a rasper of a 20 metre free into the top left corner. Now it was all to play for.
From there to the end it was tit for tat as Clonaslee tried their hardest to close the gap. Phelan and Glen McEvoy swapped points, as did Healy and Young, and finally Taylor and Young.
In the end there was no arguing Portlaoise deserved to win but Clonaslee can take some solace in the fact that they battled to the end.
PORTLAOISE: Noel Costelloe; Eoin Phelan, Chris Lynch, Keith Murphy; Ciaran McEvoy, Cahir Healy (0-2), Darragh Rigney; Cian Taylor (0-4, 2f), Dean Lynch; Tony Byrne (0-1), Tommy Fitzgerald (0-1), Eoin Costelloe (0-1); Colm Gleeson, Joe Phelan (1-4), Aaron Bergin (0-1).
Subs: Caolan Murphy for Byrne (49m), Shane Smyth for Gleeson (49m), Joe Geaney for Rigney (61m), Frank Flanagan for E. Phelan (63m)
CLONASLEE/ST MANMAN’S: James Young (0-3, 1f, 2 ’65); Jonathan Carroll, William Murray, Mark McEvoy; Shane Conroy, Darren Rooney (0-1), Gerard Reilly; Glen McEvoy (0-1), Dermot Conroy; PJ Fitzpatrick, Tommy Tynan, Conor McEvoy; Will Young, John Rowney (1-4f), Mark Duggan (0-2).
Subs: Gerard Dunne for Carroll (14m, inj), Enda McEvoy for Fitzpatrick (39m), Michael Hyland for D. Conroy (41m), Danny Larkin for Duggan (49m), Conor Gorman for Tynan (61m)
Referee: Anthony Stapleton (Rathdowney/Errill)