St Joseph’s 1-5
By Denis J. Croke
THEY are not nine in a row champions for nothing, and you write off Portlaoise at your peril. For that is what many of the attendance in O’Moore Park, even their own supporters, were doing on Friday night at half time in this senior football quarter-final replay.
The simple fact was, St Joseph’s ran them ragged in the opening period. And by the interval, many of the Portlaoise players looked decidedly exhausted.
The Kellyville lads were working to a plan, get as many men behind the ball when defending, win and keep possession, and then attack Portlaoise on the break. It worked a treat for them as they went into the interval with a four point lead, which might have been greater but for two late points from Portlaoise.
But whatever was said in the dressing room during that break certainly worked. Yes it’s an old cliché, but it certainly was the case this time. Portlaoise played with far more urgency on the restart. Taking a leaf out of the Saints’ book, they hassled and harried, closing down every avenue and were rewarded.
St Joseph’s wasted no time in making their point when Matthew Campion beat Paul Cotter for speed and send over their first point. Portlaoise struck two wides before Dan Dunne converted a great free from 45 metres into the strong wind.
Craig Rogers landed a good point from 40 metres to get Portlaoise off the mark in the tenth minute.
Midway through the half came the game’s only goal. Not for the first time, and not for the last, St Joseph’s patiently held onto the ball deep inside their own half and when the opportunity arose they broke away at speed. The ball was worked to Kevin Campion who calmly rounded the keeper and hammer to the net.
Minutes later Portlaoise’s Cotter and St Joseph’s Matthew Campion received yellow cards for some off the ball shenanigans. This was to have repercussions midway through the second half when both were sent off after receiving second yellows.
Paul Cahillane looked set to cancel out the St Joseph;’s goal after being put through by Cahir Healy but Daniel Nelligan made a good save.
With the half coming to a close the Saints lead was extended as Dunne converted a free and James Kelly pointed from playing giving them a six point cushion.
Amazingly, Portlaoise had not scored for 22 minutes but in the blink of an eye that changed. Maybe St Joseph’s had taken their eye off the ball with half time approaching but in the space 30 seconds Gareth Dillon and Brian McCormack landed points to leaving them trailing 0-3 to 1-4 at the break.
Those two points would have encouraged Portlaoise while having the opposite effect on St Joseph’s. It certainly looked like that on the restart as Portlaoise looked more like their old selves.
Two minutes into the new half Paul Cahillane reduced the deficit with a free. Then for then second time, he was denied by the Saints keeper who got down well to smother his effort from the edge of the square.
But Portlaoise were on a roll now. Cahillane converted another free and then scored from play with his less favoured right foot. And the sides were level in the 42nd minute when Brian Glynn gathered a long free, turned and split the posts.
St Joseph’s were retreating into their shell and Portlaoise were punishing them. A Craig Rogers point, via the post, gave them the lead for the first time in the 49th minute.
And when Michael Keogh equalised 90 seconds later we thought there was to be a fight-back from St Joseph’s, but it never materialised.
Instead Portlaoise took complete control and finished convincingly to set up a semi-final meeting with old rivals, Arles Killeen.
Despite being bundled over Cahillane struck for his fourth point, while Glynn kicked his second. Dillon did likewise with his fist on the hour mark and Kieran Lillis rounded off the win with a 62nd minute point.
Portlaoise’s ten in a row is still on track while St Joseph’s join the list of teams who have come close but never managed to beat the Town.
PORTLAOISE: Graham Brody; Colin Finn, Paul Cotter, David Seale; Brian Mulligan, Kieran Lillis (0-1), Gareth Dillon (0-2); Conor Boyle, Stuart Nerney; Cahir Healy, Brian Smyth, Brian Glynn (0-2); Brian McCormack (0-1), Paul Cahillane (0-4, 0-2f), Craig Rogers (0-2).
Subs: Ricky Maher for Colin Finn (h/t), Adrian Kelly for Smyth (45m), Scott Lawless for Nerney (53m), Conor Dunphy for McCormack (60m)
ST JOSEPH’S: Daniel Nelligan; Adam Campion, Tom Dunne, Cian Maher; Danny Hickey, Donal Ramsbottom, James Kelly (0-1); Ian Donnelly, Kevin Campion (1-0); Liam Kealy, James Doyle, Dan Dunne (0-2f); Michael Keogh (0-1), Matthew Campion (0-1), Jason Campion.
Subs: Dylan Doyle for A Campion (17m), Colin Campion for Kelly (36m), Murtagh Condron for Maher (53m), A Campion for J Campion (60m)
Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Courtwood)