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ACFL Division 1B Final
The ACFL Division 1B final between Ballylinan and Portarlington takes place in Bill Delaney Park, Stradbally, tonight at 7.30pm.
But the big news coming out of the Ballylinan camp is that star forward Gary Walsh has suffered a devastating injury.
LaoisToday understands that Walsh, who played for Laois in their All-Ireland Qualifier defeat to Clare last weekend, damaged his cruciate knee ligament in training during the week.
He is set to play no part in this evening’s game and will almost certainly miss all of Ballylinan’s senior championship campaign which begins against Mountmellick in three weeks time.
Ballylinan had to play most of their league campaign without Alan Farrell who was involved with Laois, but he will now return to the fold.
He, along with brothers Jamie and Ciaran, will need to have big performances while in the absence of Walsh, Ballylinan may turn to the likes of Andy McEvoy and Cathail Dunne to provide scores.
Portarlington go into the game as favourites after coming out on top in both of the league games that the teams already played.
The sides first met in McCann Park on April 9 and Colm Murphy led the way for Portarlington as he scored 1-9.
It was Ballylinan’s first loss as they came into the game on top of the Division 1B table thanks to three wins in their first three outings.
But the home side got off to a brilliant start and with Colm Murphy in top form, Port were always in control in the first half.
Murphy would hit 1-7 in total in the opening 30 minutes, his goal a nice finish and a couple of long-range frees also among his highlights.
Three Gary Walsh frees was all Ballylinan could muster in response and it was 2-8 to 0-3 at the break. And Ballylinan were also dealt a big blow midway through the half when Alan Farrell was black-carded.
With the wind behind them Ballylinan were much more competitive in the second half but they were chasing a big lead.
Walsh landed a couple of nice frees and a gem of a sideline ball while Richie Ryan, Conor Behan and Jamie Farrell also found the range.
The sending off of Jason Moore with 15 minutes remaining meant Port were under pressure in the final quarter as Ballylinan scored the last seven points of the game but earlier Port points from Murphy, Sean Byrne, Robbie Piggott and Graham Weldon ensured they had enough of a lead built up and they won by 2-13 to 0-14.
The second game was a much tighter affair but once again it was Portarlington who came out top.
They made it back to back wins by 0-12 to 1-8 and it was a crucial win as, with Killeshin dropping points on the same night against Arles-Kilcruise, it opened up a gap between them in third place and Portarlington which Killeshin couldn’t close.
Ballylinan and Portarlington finished level at the top of the table on 22 points and there shouldn’t be much between them tonight.
But perhaps the loss of Gary Walsh could turn the game in Portarlington’s favour.
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