Laois Shopping Centre Senior Hurling Championship Gr B Rd 1
By Denis J. Croke
THERE was a time when these two sides met that the hurling stood up and paid attention. But those days are a dim memory at this stage and the opening game of this year’s senior championship passed almost unnoticed.
Just how far these sides had fallen can best be judged by the facts that last year Castletown just about saw off Ballyfin in the relegation final while Portlaoise just about edged out The Harps in the Senior ‘A’ final.
On Thursday night Castletown looked comfortable leading on double scores, 0-14 to 0-7, at half time but Portlaoise put in a determined fight-back in the second half. But Castletown not only saw off the challenge but actually increased the advantage by the full time whistle.
Castletown wasted no time in posting their intent with Brendan Reddin winning the throw-in and then splitting the Portlaoise posts from over 30 metres out and with less than 20 seconds on the clock. Dylan Conroy then doubled Castletown’s advantage and we still hadn’t reached the minute mark.
Frees from Cormac Rigney and Aaron Bergin got Portlaoise off the mark but were matched by Gearoid Gaughan and a long range effort from Ryan Mullaney.
Rigney posted Portlaoise’s third but Castletown hit the next four on the trot through Reddin, and three from from Dylan Conroy to leave them with a five point cushion.
Portlaoise replied then with three in a row from Ciaran McEvoy, Cian Taylor and Rigney but there was no stopping Castletown who added six points in the closing minutes of the half.
Two from Brendan Reddin along with singles from Aaron Gaughan, John Gaughan, James Mullaney and Gearoid Gaughan had them comfortably ahead with half-time approaching.
Aaron Bergin pulled one back for Portlaoise but still they had a mountain to climb with seven points separating the sides.
The lead looked unassailable but Portlaoise had other ideas. The start the second half in a flurry scoring seven unanswered points through Cian Taylor (2), Ciaran McEvoy (2), Cormac Rigney (2) while Aaron Bergin’s free amazingly had the sides level just seven minutes after the restart.
But just as it looked like Portlaoise were about to take control Castletown hit back forcefully when the Town’s defence failed to clear their lianes and Brendan Reddin pounced to bang the sliotar to the net.
Aaron Bergin and Brendan Reddin then swapped points but two frees from Gearoid Gaughan pushed Castletown further ahead. Castletown might have had their second goal as Conor Phelan burst into the heart of the Portlaoise were his effort was blocked by Frank Flanagan.
Substitute Shane Cuddy added a point as Castletown well and truly put the result beyond doubt when Martin Phelan drove Ryan Mullaney’s long delivery to the back of the net.
CASTLETOWN: John Paul Bennett; Evan Cuddy, Shane Phelan, Martin Reddin; James Mullaney (0-1), Ryan Mullaney (0-1), John Gaughan (0-1); Conor Phelan (0-1), Brendan Reddin (1-5); Dylan Conroy (0-4, 0-2fs), Eoin Peters, Martin Phelan (1-0); Joe Phelan, Gearoid Gaughan (0-5, 0-1f, 0-1 ’65), Aaron Gaughan (0-1).
Sub: Shane Cuddy (0-1) for Conroy (51m)
PORTLAOISE: Eoin Nealon; Chris Lynch, Frank Flanagan, Bryan Naughton; Joe Geaney, Cian Dowling Byrne, David O’Mahoney; Dean Lynch, Ciaran McEvoy (0-3); Cormac Rigney (0-8, 0-5fs), Keith Murphy, Lee Davis; Gary Bergin, Cian Taylor (0-2), Aaron Bergin (0-4, 0-2fs).
Subs: Ross Brennan for G Bergin (h/t), Cathal Duggan for Dowling Byrne (h/t) Lorcan Duff for Murphy (51m)
Referee: Ronan Devaney (Camross)