By Alan Hartnett
PORTLAOISE had been faultless in finals for the last nine years, that is until ten days ago but they showed their class to crush Emo at the second attempt. The outcome on Saturday night in O’Moore Park was the one which many expected to witness in the original game.
Portlaoise manager Malachy McNulty rang the changes to the team with Dean Cullen, Eoghan Whelan and Zach Touhy coming in as John Delaney, Colin Finn and Conor Dunphy made way. It had the desired effect as the Town played at a far higher tempo and Emo simply couldn’t live with them.
Paul Cahillane gave Portlaoise the lead in the first minute from a free but Paul Lawlor quickly tied up the game from a dead ball after Nigel Murphy’s run had been illegally halted.
This would be the only time on the evening that the sides were level. It would also prove to be Emo’s only score for another 25 minutes.
Pat Ryan’s team scored 2-2 from play in the drawn final but they failed to score even a solitary point from play on Saturday evening. When all of these factors were combined, it made it impossible for Emo to win.
Paul Cahillane and Zach Touhy combined in front of the stand for the latter to regain Portlaoise’s advantage with a tremendous effort in the fourth minute. Less than sixty seconds later, Portlaoise had the ball in the net. Brian McCormack found the rampaging Touhy and he placed the ball beyond the despairing dive of Paul Kirwan.
Cahillane almost notched a second goal from their next attack but the keeper denied him with his leg. The Town really were in cruise control and points via Craig Rogers and Brian Smith pushed them six clear at the midpoint of the half.
They were soon nine points ahead through Cahillane, Touhy and Smith as Emo’s Nigel Murphy saw his shot tipped onto the post from a flying Graham Brody save.
Conor Boyle kicked another point before Paul Lawlor finally lifted the scoreboard onslaught with a brace of frees to leave the half time score at 1-8 to 0-3.
Portlaoise killed off the game within ten minutes of the restart. Brian Smith and McCormack raised white flags before the latter found Cahillane close to goal and he sidestepped Paddy Dunne before rifling in the second goal of the game.
Emo didn’t score until the 18th minute of the second period thanks to a Darren Strong free but this was rapidly cancelled out by a ruthless Portlaoise outfit with man of the match Brian Smith registering his fourth point of the game.
There was a very sad incident five minutes from full time when Emo corner back Paddy Dunne landed awkwardly when challenging in the air for a ball with Brian McCormack. It was clear from the reactions of both sets of players that the injury was a very serious one and a stretcher was required to get the stricken Dunne off the pitch with what looked like a serious ankle injury.
Eight minutes of injury time followed where a Ricky Maher free for Portlaoise was sandwiched by placed balls from Paul Lawlor and Evan Costello.
The game petered in the end and the Town have gotten one stepped closer to an unprecedented ten in a row as nobody seems fit to stop them.
PORTLAOISE: Graham Brody; Paul Cotter, Cahir Healy, David Seale; Eoghan Whelan, Kieran Lillis, Brian Mulligan; Zach Touhy (1-2), Conor Boyle (0-1); Brian Smith (0-4), Dean Cullen, Gareth Dillon; Paul Cahillane (1-2f), Brian McCormack (0-2), Craig Rogers (0-1).
Subs: Colin Finn for Boyle (41m), Brian Glynn for Mulligan (41m), Ricky Maher (0-1f) for Rogers (50m), Conor Dunphy for Dillon (52m), Kevin Fitzpatrick for McCormack (54m), Liam McGovern for Cahillane (54m)
EMO: Paul Kirwan; Shane Murphy, Shane Carney, Paddy Dunne; Darren Strong (0-1f), Niall Wheeler, Ray Ryan; Evan Costello (0-1f), Mark Carney; David Gorman, Nigel Murphy, Brian Gorman; Glenn Brophy, Mick Lawlor, Paul Lawlor (0-5f).
Subs: Finbarr Crowley for D. Gorman (28m), Conor Lawlor for B. Gorman (42m), James O’Rourke for M. Lawlor (48m), James Coman for Dunne (52m, inj), Chris Gleeson for M. Carney (54m), David Whelan for Kirwan (54m)
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Stradbally)