Portarlington 2-15 Graiguecullen 0-8
Laois Shopping Centre U-21 ‘A’ FC Final
Portarlington have enjoyed their best season in years and they capped off this evening in O’Moore Park by winning the U-21 football title for the first time since 1993.
They looked in bother ten minutes into the second half when Graigue hit three points to overturn a half-time deficit but Port dominated the final quarter and ran out comfortable 11-point winners in the end.
That ’93 team had the likes of Hughie Emerson, David Sweeney, Brendan McCann and Damien Ryan and went on to win two senior titles. They’ll be hoping that this vintage – with the likes of Paddy O’Sullivan, Robbie Piggott and Colm Murphy – can do the same.
Graigue had arrived at the final stage thanks to wins over Ballyroan-Abbey, O’Dempsey’s and champions St Joseph’s but Port were battle-hardened too thanks to a win over last year’s beaten finalists Sarsfields and a replay semi-final win over Stradbally Parish Gaels.
Graigue got off to a good start with the lively Brian Byrne on target but Colm Murphy nudged Port in front with two nice points from play.
Danny O’Reilly levelled things up for Graigue in the eighth minute with a lovely point off the outside of his boot but Port then took over. They hit the next three points – two Murphy frees and one from play from midfielder Graham Weldon to put them three clear at the end of the first quarter.
A litany of Port wides kept things closer than it should have been and although Thomas Brennan ended a long Graigue spell without a score with a point from close range, Graham Weldon cancelled it out at the other end when referee Michael Tarpey ruled that his shot had gone over.
Graigue’s pleas fell on deaf ears and they pulled one back when Danny Bolger stroked a free over off the ground.
Still, at half-time, Port led 0-6 to 0-4.
A Danny Bolger free within a minute of the restart had Graigue within one and then Eoin Alsybury came up from centre-back to level things up in the 36th minute. Another Bolger free put Graigue into the lead three minutes later and it seemed the game was turning.
But Port responded well with four points in as many minutes to open up a three-point gap. First Jordan Fitzpatrick manufactured space for himself to level things up, then Murphy swung over a peach of a point. Jake Foster landed a tricky free from distance then and wing-back Curtis Lyons put them three up.
Graigue had a couple of chances to get themselves back in contention but two spectacular points from county minor Colin Slevin swung it and a late goal from Colm Murphy – after brilliant work from Fitzpatrick – as well as points from Foster and Murphy and a goal from Foster secured a comfortable win in the end.
An injury time shemozzle led to two red cards to Graigue – to Danny Bolger who had been moved back into goals midway through the second half – and to Trevor Collins as well as a black card to Alsybury.
But it mattered little to the result and the glory is all Port’s.
They’ll look back fondly on this season, one that yielded a first senior semi-final since 2001 and county titles for their minor and U-12 teams.
Their future is bright once again.
SCORERS – Portarlington: Colm Murphy 1-7 (0-4 frees), Jake Foster 1-2 (0-1 free), Graham Weldon 0-2, Colin Slevin 0-2, Jordan Fitzpatrick 0-1, Curtis Lyons 0-1; Graiguecullen: Danny Bolger 0-3 (frees), Eoin Alsybury 0-1, Trevor Collins 0-1, Brian Byrne 0-1, Thomas Brennan 0-1, Ryan O’Grady 0-1
PORTARLINGTON: Scott Osbourne; Eoin Kennedy, Diarmuid Bennett, Alex Mohan; Colin Slevin, Robbie Piggott, Curtis Lyons; Graham Weldon, Paddy O’Sullivan; Jordan Fitzpatrick, Evan Clancy, Ronan Coffey; Jake Foster, Colm Murphy, Stevie Lyons. Subs: Cormac Curtis for S Lyons
GRAIGUECULLEN: Ger Kieran; Trevor Collins, Tunde Ogunfowora, Sean Farrell; Kyle O’Brien, Eoin Alsybury, Martin Doyle; Jamie Sheehan, Danny Bolger; Dean Malone, Brian Byrne, Paul Mulready; Thomas Brennan, Danny O’Reilly, Ethan O’Neill. Subs: Musa Sulaiman for O’Brien (47 mins), Ryan O’Grady for Kieran (52 mins), Dean Kelly for Malone (54 mins), Conor Hayden for Farell (57 mins), Ian Bradley for Mulready (61 mins)
REFEREE: Michael Tarpey (Kilcavan)