The last ever Laois minor football championship began tonight with three games down for decision.
The fourth quarter final, due to be played between Sarsfields and Stradbally Parish Gaels, did not go ahead as Sarsfields gave the Gaels a walkover.
Portarlington 1-16 Portlaoise 2-5
Portarlington marched into the semi-finals following an eight point win over Portlaoise in Annanough this evening.
The Minor League champions were without Laois U-17 captain Colin Slevin through suspension but it mattered little as they were always in control of this one.
The game’s turning point came in the 23rd minute when Portlaoise were reduced to 14 men after Ross Brennan received a straight red card.
The midfielder had won a free but in haste to take the ball back from Cathal Bennett, he lashed out the Portarlington man and was soon sent to the line.
Portarlington were leading by 0-6 to 0-3 at the time and they used their numerical advantage to full effect in the remainder of the game to win well.
Portlaoise, playing with the breeze, were first to score as Andrew Swayne split the posts after a fine run in the first minute.
Ronan Coffey levelled matters a short time after but Portlaoise were back in front after ten minutes thanks to Cathal Duggan who raised a white flag from distance.
Jordan Fitzpatrick, who was a menace at full forward for Portarlington all game, tied things up once more before Portlaoise had a great chance to get the game’s first goal.
Full forward Jason Maher collected a long ball from Gary Saunders and shot passed Seán Mooney only to see his effort come back off the post and then be cleared off the line by Conor McCarthy.
Portarlington hit the front for the first time and then went three clear with centre forward Coffey kicking them all before Trevor Swayne responded for Portlaoise.
Jordan Fitzpatrick moved Portarlington three clear again before Brennan was dismissed and the lads in maroon landed one more points through Seán Michael Corcoran to leave them 0-7 to 0-3 in front at half time.
Portarlington were then given a golden opprtunity to extend their lead further on the resumption of play. Ronan Coffey was fouled as he charged towards goal and referee Maurice Deegan signalled for a penalty.
Jordan Fallon shot low but Damon Larkin guessed right and deflected the ball over the bar.
Ronan McEvoy sandwiched a brace of Jordan Fitzpatrick points for Portarlington with one for Portlaoise before the Town had another great goal chance.
A wonderful passing move involving Ronan McEvoy and Ruairi Lewis saw the ball fall to Jason Maher but he dragged his effort just wide of the post.
Ronan McEvoy and Ronan Coffey traded frees before the Town finally got their goal with fifteen minutes to play.
Michael Dowling wriggled free of a number of tackles before firing a low ball in to area which was side footed into the bottom corner by Trevor Swayne to leave four between the teams.
But Portarlington responded excellently to that minor set back. Cathal Bennett, who operated as a sweeper, began to pick up a lot of loose ball in midfield and create scoring opportunities for his team.
Alex Mohan, Fitzpatrick and Coffey all pointed before Fitzpatrick capped a fine performance with a goal to settle the game.
Portlaoise kept going and did get a goal with the last kick of the game when Ronan McEvoy’s free from distance went in but it was to be Portarlington’s night.
SCORERS – PORTARLINGTON: Jordan Fitzpatrick 1-6, Ronan Coffey 0-7 (0-4 frees), Seán Michael Corcoran, Alex Mohan and Jordan Fallon 0-1 each PORTLAOISE: Ronan McEvoy 1-2 (1-1 frees), Trevor Swayne 1-1, Andrew Swayne 0-1, Cathal Duggan 0-1
PORTARLINGTON: Seán Mooney; Aaron Heaney, Eoin Kennedy, Mikey Bennett; Conor McCarthy, Alex Mohan, Adam Kirwan; Seán Michael Corcoran, Jordan Fallon; Curtis Lyons, Ronan Coffey, Warren Carroll; Jack Whelan, Jordan Fitzpatrick, Cathal Bennett. Subs: Darragh Galvin for Whelan (39mins), Graham Byrne for Carroll (47mins), Kyle Ryan for Lyons (58mins)
PORTLAOISE: Damon Larkin; Aodhan Doheny, Evan Browne, Eoin O’Connor; Michael Dowling, Gary Saunders, Cian Houlihan; Ross Brennan, Andrew Swayne; Ruiair Lewis, Cathal Duggan, Ronan McEvoy; Jonathon Rafter, Jason Maher, Trevor Swayne. Subs: Eoin Carey for Rafter (35mins), Mikey Nerney for A. Swayne (46mins), Cian Dowling-Byrne for Maher (52mins)
The two other games saw St Joseph’s take on The Harps while Ballyroan-Abbey faced Emo-Courtwood-The Rock.
League runners-up Ballyroan-Abbey would have fancied their chances this evening but they went down to Emo-Courtwood-The Rock by 1-16 to 0-8.
Cian Langford was the main man for the amalgamated side as he tormented the Ballyroan-Abbey defence from start to finish.
Meanwhile, St Joseph’s got the better of The Harps by 2-10 to 2-4 while Stradbally Parish Gaels received a walkover from Sarsfields.
SEMI FINAL FIXTURES
This now means that Portarlington will take on Stradbally Parish Gaels in the semi-final as they continue their quest to complete a league and championship double.
While the other semi-final will see St Joseph’s take on Emo-Courtwood-The Rock.
Both games will be played on Friday August 4.
SEE ALSO – All Monday night’s Laois GAA results