Arles Killeen 1-8
By Denis J. Croke
ARLES Killeen may have frustrated Portlaoise, but, like so many times before, they never looked like unseating the county champions. Portlaoise did what they do best, grind out a win, doing just enough.
It was hardly surprising that Portlaoise found scores hard to come by but, when you are faced by a defence of 14 players, life is always going to be difficult. But they have seen it all before and have the experience and patience to wait for the holes to appear and then exploit them.
Familiarity breeds contempt, they say, and there was some degree of niggle throughout the game. It came to a head approaching half time when, following an off the ball incident, the referee, Eddie Kinsella, red carded Arles Killeen defender, Brian Kennedy.
It got somewhat worse when players from each side became embroiled in some shenanigans in the tunnel as they left the pitch at half time.
Black cards followed in the second half for Cahir Healy, after the Portlaoise defender hauled down Donie Kingston, and Arles Killeen’s Dermot Julian for a body check on Paul Cahillane.
Arles Killeen made a game of it in the opening half but while they put it up to Portlaoise, matching them score for score, they never looked like they would ever open up a gap.
Jason Enright opened the scoring with a first minute free, Brian McCormack levelled three minutes later. Paul Kingston, making a return for Arles Killeen after his summer sojourn, landed a beauty to edge his side back in front. However, Gareth Dillon soon had the sides together again.
Eight minutes in Paul Cahillane showed a lovely turn of pace to nip between two defenders and, when a goal was a distinct possibility, he shot over the bar. And when he converted a free Portlaoise were ahead for the first time in the 11th minute.
Another magnificent point from Paul Kingston restored parity but an equally impressive McCormack point handed the lead back to Portlaoise, and there was just 13 minutes on the clock.
Amazingly, we were to have just two further points before the break. Portlaoise were to shoot four poor wides, and go 16 minutes without scoring, before Cahillane was left with a simple tap over after Healy was fouled. Before that a Donie Kingston free had again levelled affairs, so at the break Portlaoise had a slender 0-6 to 0-5 advantage.
As is so often the case, Portlaoise were a different side on their re-emergence. In the space of seven minutes they had opened up a six point gap and the game was effectively over.
Cahillane converted a 45 90 seconds in, quickly followed by a decent Adrian Kelly point in the 33rd minute. Then came the killer blow.
From a short kick out the Arles Killeen defenders got themselves in a muddle, gave the ball to McCormack. He sprinted goal-wards before transferring to Brian Smyth who buried it in the roof of the net.
Sean O’Shea kept Killeen in touch with an excellent point, which was quickly cancelled out by Dillon, this time with his left foot.
With Jason Enright and Paul Cahillane swapping frees there was still that six point gap entering the final quarter.
But scores were becoming increasingly aware as Arles Killeen withdrew deeper and deeper and frustrating Portlaoise. But the problem here was that when they did attempt to attack there was no one forward.
The one time they did manage to put together a decent move the struck a goal. Enright had just converted a free when they launched an attack from inside their own half. Brendan O’Shea sent a low ball into Paul Kingston, who broke it to Sean O’Shea on the run and he beat Graham Brody to the bottom corner.
The gap was down to just two points with 12 minutes of normal time remaining, but Killeen would not score again.
Portlaoise got back on top in the middle of the field, starving Killeen of possession. They played patient football and when the gaps eventually opened up McCormack and Smyth added to their personal tally. There would be just one more score, a McCormack point in the 57th minute.
Three minutes into time added on, Donie Kingston brought a full length save out of Brody but even if it had gone in, it would have mode no difference to the outcome.
Portlaoise can now look forward to yet another final but will be concerned after defender Paul Cotter was carried off the pitch in the dying moments with what looked like bad knee injury.
PORTLAOISE: Graham Brody; Cahir Healy, David Seale, Paul Cotter; Kieran Lillis, Brian Mulligan, Gareth Dillon (0-2); Conor Boyle, Stuart Nerney; Paul Cahillane (0-5, 0-3f, 0-1 ’45), Brian Smyth (1-1), Brian Glynn; Brian McCormack (0-4), Adrian Kelly (0-1), Craig Rogers.
Subs: Chris Finn for Healy (40m, black card), Ricky Maher for Rogers I51m, inj), Conor Dunphy for Mulligan (57m), Eoghan Whelan for Cotter (63m, inj)
ARLES KILLEEN: Michael Leigh; Paul McDonald, Niall O’Rourke, Brian Kennedy; Joe Mulhare, Shane Julian, John Mahon; Donal Kingston (0-3, 0-2f), Jason Enright (0-2f); Dermot Julian, Sean O’Shea (1-1), Conor Keightley; Cathal Moran O’Brien, Paul Kingston (0-2), Enda O’Rourke.
Subs: Brendan O’Shea for Moran O’Brien (28m), Enda McDonald for D. Julian (41m, black card), Donie Brennan for Keightley (52m), Shane Byrne for E. O’Rourke (59m)
Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Courtwood)