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Ballylinan see off Port in seven goal thriller to reach first final in 30 years

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Ballylinan's Gary Walsh has suffered a cruciate knee injury and will miss tonight's game against Portarlington
Ballylinan's Gary Walsh was outstanding this afternoon

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Portarlington 3-8 Ballylinan 4-10

Laois Shopping Centre Senior Football Championship Semi Final

Ballylinan have reached their first Laois SFC final in 30 years after they came out the right side of a seven goal thriller this afternoon.

Paul Julian’s team edged a topsy-turvy affair and have now set up a repeat of that decider from 1987 against Portlaoise in two weeks.

Ballylinan were first off the mark with points from Andy McEvoy and Gary Walsh before David Murphy opened Portarlington’s account.

The game’s opening goal came in the seventh minute. Andy McEvoy’s shot was tailing wide but Portarlington keeper Brian McAuley seemed to lose his bearings and knocked the ball down to Gary Walsh who rounded Paddy O’Sullivan before rattling the net.

Ballylinan had their tails up now as Cathail Dunne and Walsh edged them 1-4 to 0-1 ahead after 11 minutes.

And things got even better for Ballylinan a minute later. Jamie Farrell was given the freedom of O’Moore Park and he waltzed past the defence to raise a green flag once more.

Portarlington desperately needed a response and they got the perfect one with their next attack. Colm Murphy’s rocket of a shot was parried by Aidan Walsh and David Murphy got to the rebound first.

David then landed his second point to leave it 2-4 to 1-2 to Ballylinan at the midpoint of the half.

And the Portarlington full forward was proving their best threat as he took his and his team’s tally to 1-3 five minutes later.

And the margin was back to a point by the 22nd minute. Gary Walsh’s goalbound effort was tipped onto the bar by Brian McAuley who atoned for his earlier error and Port went down the other end where Jason Moore fed Colm Murphy and he rounded Aidan Walsh for the game’s fourth goal.

The teams were briefly level when Colm Murphy fisted a point but Cathail Dunne regained the lead for Ballylinan five minutes before half time.

But the Murphy brothers were in irresistible form and they combined again with Colm releasing David to smash home his second goal of the affair to give Port the lead for the first time.

The men in maroon were well on top now and Kevin McGrath’s point sent them to the dressing rooms with a 3-5 to 2-5 lead.

Ballylinan cut the gap to two on the resumption of play via Seamus Lacey and the margin was still that after Alan Farrell and David Murphy swapped points.

But calamity was soon to befall Portarlington once more as Ballylinan scored two goals inside a minute.

The first came when keeper Brian McAuley misjudged a long ball and it bounced over him where Cathail Dunne was on hand to tap the ball into the net.

And then from their next attack, Andy McEvoy raced through and blasted the ball into the top corner – Ballylinan were now four clear after 43 minutes.

Jamie Farrell then added another point but Colm Murphy slotted a free to leave four in it again as we entered the final quarter.

Gary Walsh took his tally to 1-3 but Ballylinan were reduced to 14 men with three minutes to go when Kevin Byrne was sent off for striking out at Steven Lyons.

Colm Murphy reduced the gap to four but a fisted point from Cathail Dunne edged Ballylinan further ahead as we entered four minutes of injury time.

SCORERS – PORTARLINGTON: David Murphy 2-4, Colm Murphy 1-3 (0-2 frees), Kevin McGrath 0-1 BALLYLINAN: Gary Walsh 1-3 (0-1 frees), Andy McEvoy 1-1, Cathail Dunne 1-3, Jamie Farrell 1-1, Seamus Lacey 0-1, Alan Farrell 0-1

PORTARLINGTON: Brian McAuley; Diarmuid Bennett, Paddy O’Sullivan, Robbie Piggott; Hayden Weldon, Graham Weldon, Eoin Kennedy; Johnny Fulham, Cathal Ryan; Jason Moore, Colm Murphy, Kevin McGrath; Jake Foster, David Murphy, Evan Lyons. Subs: Jordan Fitzpatrick for Lyons (28mins), Steven Lyons for McGrath (43mins, inj), Curtis Lyons for Foster (52mins)

BALLYLINAN: Aidan Walsh; Cathal Leonard, Kevin Byrne, Dermot Leonard; Alan Farrell, Richie Ryan, James Redmond; Padraig McEvoy, Jamie Farrell; Seamus Lacey, Cieran Farrell, Larry Kealy; Cathail Dunne, Gary Walsh, Andy McEvoy. Subs: Robbie Donoher for Kealy (ht), Conor Behan for D Leonard (52mins), John Kealy for Lacey (60mins), Eric Kenna for C Leonard (62mins)

Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Courtwood)

SEE ALSO – Town survive Graigue comeback to reach eleventh SFC final in a row