Sunday, August 15, 2021

2020 SFC Final preview

By Denis J. Croke

Today will be a lucky 13 day for one of the senior football finalists. Both are sitting on 12 titles but Portarlington have to go back to 2001 since they last tasted success and Graiguecullen even further back to 1965, so whoever wins there will be some almighty celebrating.

Portarlington are the bookies favourites and that is hardly surprising. Over the past decade or so the club as made huge strides and has been building to a day like this. Their underage structure has paid dividends in winning minor and under-21 titles.

But Graiguecullen too had been working hard. Over the past decade the was hardly a tear that they did not make the knock-out stages of the championship and did make the final in 2011 only to lose to Portlaoise.

And mention of Portlaoise, it is amazing to think that this will be the first time in 15 years that Portlaoise will not be in O’Moore Park on county final day.

And back to today’s two contestants – they would appear to have all the attributes to make this a cracking game although you would think that Portarlington’s strength in depth might be the telling factor.

Portarlington have some top notch forwards most notably the Murphy brothers, Colm and David along with Ronan Coffey and Jake Foster, but Graiguecullen have two of the county’s most outstanding defenders in Mark Timmons and Trevor Collins, so you can be sure Portarlington will not have it all their own way.

That said Graiguecullen are no slouches themselves up front. The likes of Brian Byrne, Shane O’Neill, Danny Reilly and Ross Hennessy can cause any defence headaches and with Michael ‘Birdy’ Hand sitting on the edge if the square Port’s defenders will have their hands full.

One concern for Portarlington is the injuries picked up by a number of players in recent weeks. The most noticeable is Paddy O’Sullivan. He had a great year with Laois but will miss the final. Alex Mohane and Rioghan Murphy were taken off during the league semi-final against St Joseph’s but should return today while Dean Foster who also limped off that day is likely to be missing today.

An area of concern for Graiguecullen will be their tendency to leak goals and there would have been more of it were not for the heroics of their goalkeeper Danny Bolger. He has been in superb form between the sticks this year and add in his deadly ability to strike long range frees and he could be a crucial player in today’s game.

That said, I still take Portarlington shade it and be today’s lucky 13.

PATHS TO THE FINAL

Portarlington

Rd 1 – Portarlington 1-12 Stradbally 0-12

Rd 2 – Portarlington 1-11 Portlaoise 0-10

Q/F – Portarlington 0-8 O’Dempsey’s 0-4

S/F – Portarlington 1-2 Ballyfin 1-2

Graiguecullen

Rd 1 – Graiguecullen 1-16 Arles Killeen 0-6

Rd 2 – Graiguecullen 0-11 The Heath 0-8

Q/F – Graiguecullen 1-9 Ballylinan 1-6

S/F – Graiguecullen 2-12 Emo 3-5

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