Laois Shopping Centre Senior Football Championship Rd 1
Ballyroan Abbey 0-12
By Pat Delaney
LAST year’s beaten semi-finalists entered this contest as warm favourites but for most of the opening half they played second fiddle to a Ballyroan Abbey side that moved the ball very well in the opening 30 minutes.
Having lost out to Portarlington in the secoind round of last year’s championship, Ballyroan were in a determined mood to reverse that result and come so close to doing so.
Byt they had to complete the game with just 14 layers after Martin Scully became the third players out of Sunfay’s four gameds to go for an early shower ten minutes into the second half.
But credit to the lads in sky blue they never conceded defeat and made the winners worked roght up to the final whistle.
Midfielder Patrick O’Sullivan gave Portarlington the lead with a good point a minute and half into the contest but 20 minutes would elapse before Portarlington would add to their total.
Ballyroan opened their account with a Michael John Tierney free and the Sky Blues went in front with a point by John Rogers in the seventh minute.
Ballyroan then took complete control with Diarmuid Whelan adding a third nine minutes in followed by two excellent strikes by Tierney edging his side into a four point lead.
Portarlington tried desperately to get into the game and long serving Johnny Fullam kicked their second score 22 minutes into the contest.
Ballyroan were still dominating and points by Tierney and the excellent Diarmuid Whelan extended their advantage to four again but Portarlington struck back with a second Patrick O’Sullivan point after 24 minutes.
When Padraig McMahon rifled over a superb point in the 30th minute it looked as if Portarlington would be in the losers enclosure but suddenly a huge change came about led by long serving David Murphy who had cut a frustrated figure for most of the half.
Twice inside two minutes of injury time Murphy kicked two superb points leaving his side in arrears 0-5 to 0-8 when the half time whistle sounded.
On the resumption Portarlington added another point within a minute, this time another man well contained in the opening, half full forward Jordan Fitzpatrick kicked over.
From the kick out Padraig McMahon landed his second point and after that both kicked bad wides.
Seven minutes into the half David Murphy was on the edge of the square when Adam Ryan floated a perfect ball in and Murphy rose highest to punch the ball past the keeper. Almost immediately Murphy kicked his third point to edge Portarlington in front for the second time.
Jason Ward added a point from a free awarded for a foul on Stephen Lyons which resulted in Ballyroan Abbey’s Martin Scully receiving his marching orders to a second yellow card.
Diarmuid Whelan converted a free as did Tierney and with ten minutes remaining the teams were all square.
Ballyroan’s Mick Brennan picked out Diarmuid Whelan and he edged Ballyroan back in front.
Portarlington responded immediately when Jonathan Fullam and David Murphy combined for the latter to kick the equaliser with five minutes remaining.
Four minutes from time Jason Ward kicked his second free between the uprights and once ahead Portarlington would not be caught again. An unlikely source, Graham Weldon caught a high ball and split the posts with a spectacular effort to seal a passage to the second round winners group and a meeting with one of the top teams, St Joseph’s.
Portarlington are capable of much better but they need to produce it from the throw in.
Ballyroan Abbey will have mixed feelings after promising so much early on. Despite numerical disadvantage they were still on level terms five minutes from time and in the last minute of play Padraig McMahon saw a powerful shot just skim the upright on the wrong side. They now face a tricky second round clash with The Heath.