St Joseph’s 2-9 Portlaoise 1-5
Laois Shopping Centre ACFL Division 1A
After leading the St Joseph’s juniors to championship glory last year, Tom Kelly played his first senior match in eight years tonight and was immense.
Lining out at wing forward, Kelly was everywhere and after missing so long following a serious neck injury sustained in 2010, it looked as if he had never been away.
This was also the first senior game for St Joseph’s since the sad passing of Liam Kealy and this victory was certainly a fitting way to remember him as it was built on hard work and endeavor in what was a dreadful night for football.
After a minute silence was observed by all, St Joseph’s were straight onto the attack and Brendan Hickey gave them an early lead.
Portlaoise though were the better side for much of the first half and in a typical free-flowing handpassing move, Bruno McCormack set up Ricky Maher who raced through and rattled the roof of the net after eight minutes.
Michael Keogh hit straight back for St Joseph’s but further points from McCormack and Conor Boyle had Portlaoise three clear by the midpoint of the half.
Matty Campion reduced the arrears after he was picked out on the run by Tom Kelly but Bruno kept Portlaoise three ahead with his third of the game as we entered the closing stages of the half.
However, it was here that St Joseph’s turned the game on its head. A brilliant diagonal ball from James Kelly picked out Hickey and he slipped the ball beyond the advancing Richard Downey.
This levelled the game but a late Matty Campion free sent St Joseph’s in at the half time break with a 1-5 to 1-4 lead.
And this finish to the half seemed to spur St Joseph’s on as they were completely rejuvenated on the resumption of play and pinned Portlaoise in their own half for long periods.
It was here that Kelly came into his own as he won kick-out after kick-out and set several attacks – but St Joseph’s were wasteful and despite dominating possession, they failed to score until the 15th minute of the second half.
But luckily for them, it would take Portlaoise eleven minutes longer to register what would turn out to be their only score of the second period.
Matty Campion finally ended the scoreless period and St Joseph’s almost had a second goal when Kelly released Michael Keogh but his shot was brilliantly saved by Downey who then got up and denied Brendan Hickey on the rebound.
Keogh did raise a white flag moments later and while Ricky Maher did the same for Portlaoise with four minutes to play, there was time for a big finish for Joseph’s.
Keogh notched his third point but that goal continued to elude him as Downey once again denied him from point blank range by tapping his shot onto the bar – however, this time Brendan Hickey was able to palm home his second goal of the evening.
And fittingly, the final point of the game came the way of Tom Kelly when he caught a kick out and played a one-two with substitute Cian Maher before fisting it over the bar to seal a seven point win.
SCORERS – St Joseph’s: Brendan Hickey 2-1, Matty Campion 0-4 (one free), Michael Keogh 0-3, Tom Kelly 0-1 Portlaoise: Ricky Maher 1-1, Brian McCormack 0-3 (one free), Conor Boyle 0-1
ST JOSEPH’S: Dan Dunne; Donie Ramsbottom, Tom Dunne, Adam Campion; Murtagh Condron, Aidan Brennan, James Kelly; Cathal Fleming, Ian Donnelly; Matty Campion, Michael Keogh, Tom Kelly; Brian Daly, Brendan Hickey, James Smith. Subs: Dylan Doyle for Smith (ht), Cian Maher for Condron (48mins)
PORTLAOISE: Richie Downey; Gary Saunders, Colin Finn, Brian McCormack; Chris Finn, Craig Rogers, David Seale; Dean Cullen, Ciarán McEvoy; Ronan McEvoy, Conor Boyle, Jason Maher; Ricky Maher, Brian McCormack, Scott Lawless. Subs: John Kavanagh for Maher (ht), Conor Dunphy for R McEvoy (ht), Dean Lynch for Brian McCormack (42mins), Kevin Fitzpatrick for Bruno McCormack (50mins)
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Stradbally)