Leinster Senior League Division 1A
Portlaoise AFC 1
Inchicore Athletic 2
By Mark Comerford
PORTLAOISE AFC have now lost their last three games in all competitions – each of them at home – falling on Friday night to Inchicore Athletic in the league. The Dublin side occupy fifth place in Division 1A, eight places, and now 22 points, above Portlaoise.
Despite the statistical gulf between the sides, Portlaoise stayed in the game right up until the final whistle and were the better team in spurts.
It was a very open first 25 minutes without either side creating anything clear-cut. Inchicore were playing all the football, but it was the hosts, happy to play on the counter-attack, that looked more dangerous.
Portlaoise were utilising an inverted 3-4-3, with the wide players playing as wing-backs when their side was defending. David Doyle was dropping deep to receive the ball while Josh Woods and Jason Caffrey pushed on, using their pace to cause problems for Inchicore.
But it was the visitors who took the lead in the 28th minute when striker, Kian Ekhuemelo got on the end of a Sean Quinn ball into the box.
Inchicore were on top for the rest of the half and began to get opportunities. Craig Walsh was clean through on the Portlaoise goal but Sean McCormack made a magnificent save, turning the ball onto the crossbar.
The visitors did finally double their lead in the 42nd minute thanks to a screamer from Luke Rossiter. The attacking midfielder was 20 yards out, on the corner of the box and gave McCormack no chance, picking out the top corner. 2-0 at half time.
Portlaoise were a new team in the second half. Caffrey had a big chance right from the whistle and Doyle came close moments later.
The hosts were awarded a penalty on the hour mark when James Doran brought down Doyle in the box. The striker got up to take the spot-kick himself; his shot was well saved but Aaron Rafter was quickest to react, heading in the rebound to make it 2-1.
Inchicore took over again after the goal, dominating possession. Centre back, John Johnson came close ten minutes from time, hitting the post with a strong header. They managed the final period of the game well, starving the hosts of any meaningful possession.
Portlaoise have had no luck with injuries and have had to cope over the past three months with only half a squad.
This was exasperated on Friday night when Colm Poole and Kelvin Burke were both forced to play in the back three. The pair are normally pivotal to the Portlaoise midfield and their creativity was sorely missed.
In total, Portlaoise are missing ten players. Work commitments, suspensions and an injury list with the likes of Jimmy Dermody, Colm Coss and Graham Brody on the treatment table has completely hampered the side’s progress.
Manager, Darren Rogers expects to have the bulk of these players back by March – many of whom are likely starters. With the club in a genuine relegation battle, they can’t come back fast enough.
PORTLAOISE: Sean McCormack; Kelvin Burke, Aidan McGovern, Colm Poole; Jason Horan, Michael Rogers, Cathal Hewitt, Aaron Rafter; David Doyle, Jason Woods, Jason Caffrey.
Subs: Evan Hewitt for Caffrey (78m), David Oluwabale for Horan (85m)
INCHICORE ATHLETIC: Ryan Murphy; James Doran, Leon Fahy, Thomas Hyland, John Johnson; Craig Walsh, Joe Fitzmaurice; Sean Quinn, Luke Rossiter, Adam Maher; Kian Ekhuemelo.
Referee: Colin Duffy