Portlaoise 1-12 Graiguecullen 0-8
Laois Shopping Centre Senior Football Championship Semi Final
Portlaoise survived a second half Graiguecullen comeback to reach their eleventh Laois SFC final in a row.
The Town led by 11 points at half time but were held scoreless in the third quarter as Graiguecullen scored six unanswered points.
But they couldn’t get close enough to Portlaoise to make them sweat as Malachy McNulty’s side prevailed.
There was a stiff breeze blowing across the pitch in the first half which was slightly favouring Portlaoise but Graiguecullen had the first two attempts on goal – Aaron Forbes and Ian Fleming hitting difficult frees wide.
Gareth Dillon opened the scoring from distance and there would be only two more points in the opening quarter.
Paul Cahillane kicked the second and Conor Boyle popped up with the third to leave Portlaoise 0-3 to no score ahead.
Graiguecullen were finding it hard to break down Portlaoise as both sides had big numbers committed to defence but they finally found a way through after 16 minutes when Mark Timmons was fouled and Ian Fleming converted a free.
Portlaoise didn’t panic though and Kieran Lillis scored their fourth point before they had the game’s opening goal.
The patience to create the opportunity was sublime and it ended with Brian Mulligan popping the ball off to Conor Dunphy who raced through and picked out the top corner.
Graiguecullen were rattled and Scott Lawless piled on the misery with a long range point before a bizarre incident saw the Town go further clear.
Graham Brody ran all the way up inside the Graigue 45, lost the ball, won it back and was then fouled with Paul Cahillane kicking the resulting free.
Ross Hennessy got Graigue’s second point but Paul Cahillane instantly wiped that out with his third.
And Portlaoise ended the half with two audacious scores The first came via Brian McCormack from in front of the stand off his left foot and the second thanks to Scott Lawless from the same position to leave it 1-9 to 0-2 at half time.
Portlaoise had the chance to well and truly put the game to bed on the resumption of play when Ciarán McEvoy broke clear but Ger Kiernan dived full length to deny him at point blank range.
And Graiguecullen, who introduced Barry Brennan as a half time sub, gained confidence from this as Daniel O’Reilly, Luke Alsybury and Ian Fleming all raised white flags to cut the gap to seven after 36 minutes.
And when Aaron Forbes curled over Graigue’s fourth point on the trot, their fans were starting to believe that the most remarkable of comebacks could be on the cards.
Ambrose Doran slotted another but Portlaoise’s second half wait for a score was finally ended when Paul Cahillane converted a free after he had been fouled with 47 minutes played.
Ross Hennessy reduced the margin to five once more with a free with eight minutes to play but Paul Cahillane hit back with one to put six in it with five to go.
Conor Boyle edged Portlaoise seven ahead as we entered five minutes of additional time and that is how it finished.
SCORERS – PORTLAOISE: Conor Dunphy 1-0, Scott Lawless 0-2 (0-1 frees), Paul Cahillane 0-5 (0-3 frees), Gareth Dillon 0-1, Conor Boyle 0-2, Kieran Lillis 0-1, Brian McCormack 0-1 GRAIGUECULLEN: Ian Fleming 0-2 (0-2 frees), Ross Hennessy 0-2 (0-2 frees), Daniel O’Reilly 0-1, Luke Alsybury 0-1, Aaron Forbes 0-1, Ambrose Doran 0-1
PORTLAOISE: Graham Brody; Brian Mulligan, Frank Flanagan, Chris Finn; David Holland, Kieran Lillis, Conor Dunphy; Adrian Kelly, Ciarán McEvoy; Gareth Dillon, Benny Carroll, Conor Boyle; Paul Cahillane, Scott Lawless, Brian McCormack. Subs: David Seale for Kelly (43mins), Brian Smith for Lawless (49mins), Ricky Maher for Carroll (53mins), Shane Smyth for Cahillane (62mins, inj), Kevin Fitzpatrick for Dunphy (64mins)
GRAIGUECULLEN: Ger Kiernan; Jimmy Bolton, Bobby Doyle, Liam Kearney; Luke Alsybury, Mark Timmons, Trevor Collins; Ian Fleming, Shane O’Neill; Chris Hurley, Ambrose Doran, Daniel O’Reilly; Brian Byrne, Aaron Forbes, Ross Hennessy. Subs: Barry Brennan for Hurley (ht), James Doogue for Byrne (50mins), Danny Alsybury for Hennessy (50mins), Martin Doyle for Bolton (58mins, inj), Jamie Parr for Brennan (61mins, inj)
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Stradbally)