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The Heath claim Division 3 football league title after incredible win over Portarlington

The Heath team celebrate after their ACFL Division 3 final win over Portarlington in Mountmellick

The Heath 2-16 Portarlington 2-12
Laois Shopping Centre ACFL Division 3 Final

A game that had everything! It might have been a Division 3 league final (and technically the fourth tier of Laois club football) but you’ll do well to see a more entertaining game of football this year.

In the end The Heath’s second team got the better of Portarlington’s second team in a clash that saw The Heath recover from a disastrous start where they were nine points down after 15 minutes and still six down with 20 minutes to go.

There was a selection of yellow cards, a black card for each team late on and it was a mystery how there wasn’t at least one red. A hard-hitting game on a concrete-like surface then erupted into an all-in melee in injury time after a couple of wild Heath tackles halted Port’s search for an equalising goal.

Port were far from the innocent party, however, as their foul count was off the charts in the second half when The Heath were storming back. That much is evident by the fact that 1-7 of The Heath’s second-half tally was from frees (or a penalty in the case of their second goal) and that referee Michael Tarpey also awarded them a second penalty only to eventually over-rule himself after consulting with his umpire.

All that drama only added to what was a really high quality game of football with both sides packed with players of senior experience and quality.

If there was a man of the match, Cathal Whelan would have got it for his exhibition of free-taking from a variety of angles and distances. He finished with ten points and has as sweet a left boot as you’ll come across.

Shane and Neil Keane were also excellent for The Heath while the experience of their subs – Aidan Bergin, Luke Hyland and Mick Lenihan all made telling contributions – was vital. Mark Dowling, Liam Kinsella, Joe McEvoy and new recruits Shane Forde and Jack Delaney (Shanahoe native but son of former Heath player Anthony) all had fine games too.

The Portarlington team that took on The Heath in the ACFL Division 3 final this evening

Port had an amount of class on their side also. Adam Ryan – back in the club colours after a brief sojourn with Dublin side St Jude’s last year – ran the show in the opening half before being forced off at half-time with a hamstring injury. His loss was keenly felt.

Last year’s county minors Ronan Coffey and Colin Slevin stood out as well with the very lively Chris Booth scoring four points from play.

Port began the game brilliantly, Ryan getting them off the mark after less than a minute. Two minutes later Scott Osbourne had their first goal after a mix-up from a Heath kickout. Ronan Coffey then registered 1-1 in quick succession, the goal an absolute screamer after they cut open the defence. When Adam Ryan added his second point, it had them 2-3 to no score up after quarter of an hour.

To The Heath’s credit, they rolled up their sleeves and fought back. Dan Hennessy got them up and running with a nice point from play after a good move and then Shane Keane hit two in a row.

Bob Delaney and the first of Cathal Whelan’s frees meant they hit five on the trot to be right back in contention. Chris Booth hit back with two for Port, the second a rasper of a shot that went over off the crossbar.

Mark Dunne and Whelan (free) replied for The Heath but Port got the last three points of the half, two gems from Coffey and another from Booth. At the break Port led 2-8 to 0-7.

The Heath brought in three subs at the interval (added to Neil Keane coming on during the first half) and they started the second half well with Whelan pointing twice.

Chris Booth and Coffey pointed either side of another Whelan free in the 42nd minute but The Heath were building up a head of steam now. Two more from Whelan had them back to four and when Liam Kinsella pulled on the ball in the square – after good work from Jack Delaney – to fire past Gary Lanigan, there was only one in it as we entered the last 10 minutes of normal time.

The Heath team before the game

Four minutes later the game was level when Whelan added his eighth point of the night. Jason ‘Chilli’ Ward slapped over a fine point from distance to nudge Port back in front but Whelan again tied it up before Mark Dunne tucked away a penalty after Jack Delaney was fouled in the square.

That goal came in the 59th minute but the row came early in injury time meaning we’d 11 minutes added on in total.

Port could only muster one point in that spell – from another Coffey free – and The Heath sealed the win with late points from Whelan and big midfielder, Mayo man Shane Forde.

Michael Tarpey’s final whistle was greeted joyously by The Heath faithful and he’d to endure an earful of Portarlington opinion as he made his way off the field.

County Board official and Heath club man Tom Jones was on hand to hand over the trophy to winning captain Mark Dunne but he condemned the ugly nature of the row in his presentation speech.

As league finals go, it won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

SCORERS – The Heath: Cathal Whelan 0-10 (eight frees), Mark Dunne 1-1 (1-0 penalty), Liam Kinsella 1-0, Shane Keane 0-2, Bob Delaney, Dan Hennessy and Shane Forde 0-1 each; Portarlington: Ronan Coffey 1-5 (0-4 frees), Chris Booth 0-4, Scott Osbourne 1-0, Adam Ryan 0-2, Jason Ward 0-1

PORTARLINGTON: Gary Lanigan; Adam Kirwan, Stephen Mulhall, Alex Mohan; Andrew Evans, Colin Slevin, Curtis Lyons; Padraig O’Dwyer, Adam Ryan; Chris Booth, Steven Lyons, Ronan Coffey; Daryl Foy, David Condron, Scott Osbourne. Subs: Eoin McCann for Ryan (injured – HT), Padraig Coffey for Evans (35), Jason Ward for Foy (52), Jack Whelan for Ward (Black Card – 65)

THE HEATH: JP Nerney; James Conroy, Gary Hogan, Joe McEvoy; David Phelan, Mark Dowling, Bob Delaney; Liam Kinsella, Shane Forde; Shane Keane, Mark Dunne, Robbie Ging; Cathal Whelan, Shane Booth, Dan Hennessy. Subs: Neil Keane for Phelan (16), Jack Delaney for Hennessy (HT), Luke Hyland for Booth (HT), Aidan Bergin for Ging (HT), Mick Lenihan for B Delaney (injured – 39), Benny Conroy for Bergin (Black Card – 63)

REFEREE: Michael Tarpey (Kilcavan)

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. From Laois, Steven studied Journalism in DCU and has 14 years experience in the media, almost 10 of those in an editorial role. Husband of Emily, father of William and Lillian, he's happiest when he's telling stories or kicking a point.