Laois Shopping Centre Senior Football Championship Rd 1
Ballyfin Gaels 2-8
By Denis J. Croke
AND so it came to pass, as most expected, Portlaoise saw off the Ballyfin challenge without too must hassle in O’Moore Park on Saturday evening.
The Gaels side caused a shock 12 months ago when they defeated the then county champions in round two but there was to be no repeat this year.
Ballyfin can take some solace in the fact that they were not annihilated by the county champions. They battled gallantly to the end but in all truth were always chasing a dream.
It is regularly said that Portlaoise didn’t impress n the league but come championship they are a different animal. And they caused a surprise when Paul Cotter was named at centre back having not played for a couple of years due to cruciate injury.
And when you look at a subs bench and see the likes of Cahir Healy sitting there, and who was introduced at half time, you get an idea of the task facing you.
The alarm bells were ringing for Ballyfin before a minute had elapsed after Ciaran McEvoy delivered a long pass into Gareth Dillon and he buried it in the net.
And it looked even worse after Paul Cahillane (free) and Conor Boyle (2) posted three points within the next three minutes.
WE were to go five minutes without a score until James Moore converted a free to get Ballyfin up and running. Ben Conroy quickly added a second.
Ten minutes in Brian McCormack put five between the sides but Ballyfin were not going to lie down.
Ballyfin midfielder Rocky Quillinan won possession put near midfield and went on a storming run down the right wing, shrugging off a number of challenges. He then passed James Moore who calmly slotted the ball under Graham Brody for a good goal.
This woke up Portlaoise who now began to take control. Four points from Cahillane (2), Conor Boyle and Scott Lawless were interrupted by another Moore point, this one from play and when the same player converted a free just four points separated the sides with 22 minutes on the clock.
However from here to half time it was all about Portlaoise. When the Ballyfin defence allowed a long ball to bounce it went over two defenders to Brian McCormack who made no mistake in beating Robbie Foran.
Further points from Cahillane (2), Lawless and Chris Finn left Portlaoise with a healthy 2-12 to 14 lead at the break.
Despite their battling qualities, there was to be no way back into this game for Ballyfin, especially when Portlaoise were able to bring on Cahir Healy as a sub and Cahillane and Lawless raised white flags within two minutes of the restart.
Dan Molloy landed a nice point for Ballyfin three minutes into the half but this was cancelled out by another Cahillane free. A Brian McCormack point was matched by another James Moore free.
Midway through the half there was something for the Ballyfin supporters when their side scored what could be one of the goals of the season. When George Lanham blocked a Conor Boyle shot he passed the ball to Ben Conroy out under the stand.
He burst down the wing, sold a few dummies to outpace Kieran Lillis after he lost his footing, cut in and fed Louis Duff, who in turn moved the ball to James Finn who placed the ball beyond Graham Brody.
But there was to be no respite from the inevitable. In the ten minute period between the 45th and 55th minutes Portlaoise were to score four more points through Brian McCormack (2), David Holland and Kieran Lillis.
Ballyfin could manage only two, a brace of James Moore’s frees.
And there was to be time for one last goal. Gareth Dillon made another surging run at the heart of the Ballyfin defence before passing to the unmarked Craig Rogers who was left with a simple tap home.
After Cahillane popped over a 61st minute free referee Tomás Moore put Ballyfin out of their misery when he blew the final whistle.
No one would have doubted that Portlaoise would win this game and they duly obliged. They march on and it will take a good side to beat them.
For Ballyfin, much depends of the draw for round two. They can be satisfied with their display against the champions, but they face a few tough weeks ahead.
PORTLAOISE: Graham Brody; David Holland (0-1), David Seale, Gary Saunders; Chris Finn (0-1), Paul Cotter, Colin Finn; Kieran Lillis (0-1), Ciaran McEvoy; Ricky Maher, Conor Boyle (0-3), Gareth Dillon (1-0); Paul Cahillane (0-9, 0-6f), Brian McCormack (1-4), Scott Lawless (0-3).
Subs: Cahir Healy for Cotter (h/t), Craig Rogers (1-0) for McEvoy (47m), Brian Smyth for Maher (51m)
BALLYFIN GAELS: Robbie Foran; Barry Roche, Shane Farrell, Richie Downey; Darragh Connolly, George Lanham, Ciaran Fingleton; Davy Connolly, Ricky Quillinan; Max Connolly, James Moore (1-6, 0-5f), Dan Molloy (0-1); Louis Duff, James Finn (1-0), Ben Conroy (0-1).
Subs: Ciaran Fennelly for Fingleton (36m), Nick Cosgrove for M. Connolly (39m), Luke Kerr for Duff (47m), John Lowry for Quillinan (53m)
Referee: Tomás Moore (Park/Ratheniska)