By Pat Delaney
LAST time out, Ballylinan failed to Ballyroan-Abbey and Portarlington thrAshed Graiguecullen. On Sunday evening, these two produced a thrilling contest with the losers in the hunt until the final minute. Last year Ballylinan were involved in one of the best games of the championship but came up short against Emo.
On Sunday they started very well and for a time it looked like being the Gary Walsh show. He kicked three superb points in the opening eight minutes, two frees after he opened the scoring from play. Nine minutes in and David Murphy eventually got his side on the board from play but Ballylinan responded with two more points by Pauric McEvoy and centre forward Cathal Dunne.
Ballylinan were dominating at midfield but slowly Portarlington came right into the game and in the next 12 minutes they kicked four great points by Jake Foster, David Murphy, Evin Lyons and Jason Moore to level the contest and Ballylinan had faded.
Three minutes before the break, Jamie Farrell set up the in-running Cathal Dunne and he blasted with his left foot under the keeper for an excellent goal. Portarlington finished the half well, wiping out the deficit by two points thanks to Kevin McGrath and David Murphy, who was pulling the strings for the maroon side and after a slow start they went to the break trailing 0-7 to 1-5.
Gary Kavanagh was hardly best pleased but neither side could score early in the new half. Both were guilty of poor shooting before defender Robert Piggott kicked the equaliser in the 35th minute. When Jake Foster kicked from play, Portarlington were in front for the first time.
Gary Walsh, who had not scored since the eight minute, restored parity in the 39th. Ballylinan then lost Podge Walsh on a black card but his replacement proved to be an inspiration. After Jake Foster edged Portarlington back in front, it was sub Robbie Donoher who sent over a spectacular point in the 44th minute.
Portarlington introduced two replacements in attack but the next score was a well-executed goal from Cathal Dunne, after Robbie Donoher sent over a perfect ball from out on the side line. Portarlington almost got a goal at the other end but Aiden Walsh made a superb goal line block from substitute Stephen O’Neill.
Jake Foster narrowed the gap with a good point but nine minutes from time a great move down the wing ended with defender Jim Redmond hammering past Brian McAuley. Now the deficit was five, after Gary Walsh kicked his fifth point.
Two minutes later, Portarlington were back in the hunt after Stephen O’Neill passed to Kevin McGrath and finally Aiden Walsh was beaten. The closing minutes were exciting. Jamie Farrell ran 50 metres to land a superb point but two-in-a-row by Jake Foster left just two separating the teams at the end of normal time. The excellent Cathal Dunne sealed victory with a well-taken point.
Gary Kavanagh now faces his beloved Stradbally for a place in the semi-final. Portarlington will be disappointed but after a poor start to the year they are in a good place.
PORTARLINGTON: Brian McAuley; Diarmuid Bennett, Cathal Ryan, Sean Byrne; Robert Piggott (0-1), Pat O’Sullivan, Jason Moore(0-1); Stuart Mulpeter, Keith Bracken; Evan Lyons(0-1), David Murphy (0-3), Jonathan Fullam; Jake Foster (0-6), Kevin McGrath(1-1), Steven Lyons; Graham Weldon For S Lyons 45m, Stephen O’Neil; for E Lyons 47m
BALLYLINAN: Aiden Walsh; Eric Kenna, Cathal Leonard, Richie Ryan; Conor Behan, Alan Farrell, James Redmond (1-0); Pauric McEvoy(0-1), John Kealy; Ciaran Farrell (1-0), Cathal Dunne (1-2), Podge Walsh; Andy McEvoy, Gary Walsh (0-5), Jamie Farrell (0-1); Robbie Donoher (0-1) for P Walsh Bl Card 42m, Rory Jacob for J Redmond 58m
Referee Eddie Kinsella (Courtwood)