By Denis J. Croke
Last night we were treated to two very different quarter-finals.
Portlaoise were simply in a different class to Clonaslee/St Manman’s winning on a 0-15 to 0-6 score-line. Clonaslee/St Manman’s will in time look back at what was a history making championship for them. That said, they would have liked to have made more of a game of it.
The second game in MW Hire O’Moore Park was a thriller. St Joseph’s looked certain to advance to the last four when leading by three points with just a couple of minutes of normal time remaining. But then O’Dempsey’s substitute Eoin Finlay scored a goal and the Kellyville outfit collapsed and ended up losing by 3-10 to 1-13.
Today’s programme begins with the meeting of Graiguecullen and Courtwood. The Barrowsiders look to be an outfit on the way to the top but Eddie Kinsella’s charges will not make it easy for them.
The last of the semi-finals pairs the title holders, Portarlington and Ballyroan Abbey. The Sky Blues look to be another side on an upward curve but Portarlington’s experience could prove to be the difference in this one.
Graiguecullen v Courtwood
This could be an intriguing contest. Graiguecullen have been showing signs of progress over the past couple of years and look like real title challengers this year. The Barrowsiders really impressed in the league despite losing to St Joseph’s in the final.
That said, for much of the first half of their opening game it looked like Clonaslee/St Manman’s might pull off the shock of the round. When the team from the foothills of the Slieve Blooms held a four-point lead late in the second quarter many of those at the game were scratching their heads.
As it turned out Graiguecullen steadied the boat to level the game at the interval and an early second half goal saw them through. They then swept aside the Stradbally challenge.
Courtwood were way too strong for newly promoted Park/Ratheniska in their opening game. They were a tad unfortunate to draw Portlaoise in the second round. While the scoreboard said eight points was the Town’s winning margin, but it should be remembered that Niall Dunne scored a late goal to give it a better look.
Eddie Kinsella will have his lads well primed for this but it is hard to see them coming away with a win.
Portarlington v Ballyroan Abbey
With the word being that is to be Martin Murphy’s last term with Portarlington, as he is set to take his place on the Offaly sideline, they would surely love to complete a magnificent hat trick of titles.
After a not so impressive league campaign, once the championship commenced they looked a different package. In the opening round they won in a common hack canter. That said no one was getting overly excited about beating Arles Killeen by 2-23 to 2-15.
And it took a point in the last minute from Jake Foster to just about edge out neighbours O’Dempsey’s in the second round.
Ballyroan Abbey appear to be a club on an upward curve having contested the last four minor finals, winning two. Padraig Clancy has blended the youth in well with the more experienced players and they swamped Rosenallis in the opening round.
The two point defeat at the hands of St Joseph’s was a bit of a set back but they sowed with the three goal defeat of Ballyfin that they are still a force to be reckoned with.