The Heath 0-6
By Pat Delaney
THE eagerly awaited clash of the reigning champions and the recently crowned league champions promised much but failed to deliver. Portlaoise fell three fences out from the league finishing line but, on the evidence here, got up, dusted themselves down and are back hungrier than ever.
After comfortably sailing through the league, the men in black and amber knew this would be a step up and when Brian McCormack set up Gareth Dillon for the opening score inside two minutes they had been warned. At the other end the Heath were awarded a free and Chris Bergin carried his excellent league sharpness into championship splitting the posts.
Craig Rogers reclaimed the lead in the ninth minute. Brian Mulligan, one of the nine winning captains, ghosted into attack to put two between the teams. When McCormack and Brian Smyth shot wides, The Heath breathed a sigh of relief. Chris Bergin pointed from play and a free and it was three apiece at the end of the quarter.
Gareth Dillon posted his second but a foul on Chris Bergin saw him land the equaliser again. Twenty-one minutes in the McCormack opened his account from play and Portlaoise were in front. The next five minutes produced the highs and lows for the challengers.
Chris Bergin sent over the equaliser in the 23rd minute and when he fired over his second from play two minutes later the supporters were in full voice. Then it all changed.
The Heath had been well ahead on the free count but when Tony Connolly was disposed on the 50 metre line, and appeared to be fouled, play carried on. In a flash the ball went down field where Paul Cahillane slipped inside the defence and left footed to the roof of Joe Walsh’s net.
Ricky Maher picked up the first yellow card a minute later. Craig Rogers added two points but in between a defining moment. Chris Bergin broke through and had options but his effort was easily dealt with by the Portlaoise keeper and at the interval the champions led 1-7 to 0-6.
What Donie Norton might have said or did not say matters little and when Smyth set up Cahillane for a point two minutes into the new half it was ominous. The next ten minutes failed to deliver a score at either end the Heath kicked four wides. Connolly picked up a yellow card and Portlaoise were content to keep possession.
The final quarter saw Smyth issued a black card and almost immediately his replacement Scott Lawless gain possession. He picked out Cahillane, he delivered to substitute Adrian Kelly and scored Portlaoise’s second goal.
McCormack added a brace and in an off the ball incident Cahillane and Connolly received their marching orders. Lawless closed the scoring with the last kick of the game.
Portlaoise march on and the Heath well they will recover but how far they progress is how they learn from this experience.
PORTLAOISE: Graham Brody; David Seale, Chris Finn, John Delaney; Brian Mulligan(0-1), Conor Boyle, Brian Smyth; Kieran Lillis, Brian Glynn; Gareth Dillon (0-2), Paul Cahillane(1-2), Conor Dunphy; Brian McCormack (0-3), Craig Rogers (0-3), Ricky Maher.
Subs: Stuart Nerney for Maher (35m), Adrian Kelly (0-1) for Dunphy (45m), Scott Lawless (0-1) for Smyth (46m, black card)
Red Card: Paul Cahillane
THE HEATH: Joe Walsh; Mark Dowling, Colin Nestor, Alan Whelan; Gary Roe Smith, Tony Connolly; Aiden Bergin; Seamus Mulhare, Ciaran Booth; Shane Carroll, Chris Bergin (0-6), Daithí Carroll; JP Nerney, Brian Ging, Evin Keane.
Subs: Cathal Whelan for Nerney (43m), Eoin Delaney for Ging (48m)
Red Card: Tony Connolly
Referee John Flynn (The Rock)