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Portlaoise v the Dublin champions: Some great battles but a long tale of woe for The Town

This Sunday, the Portlaoise footballers will board their team bus and head for Parnell Park for a mouth-watering Leinster Club SFC semi-final against Dublin champions Kilmacud Crokes.

It promises to be a great game as Malachy McNulty’s men bid to reach a second Leinster final in four years.

The Dublin champions have proven a considerable stumbling block for Portlaoise during the last ten years so.

While Portlaoise beat Kilmacud in 2004, they have since played the Dublin champions on seven different occasions and have lost each time.

Five different Dublin teams have gotten the better of them – St Vincent’s, Kilmacud Crokes, St Brigid’s, Ballymun Kickhams and Ballyboden-St Enda’s.

With the exception of St Brigid’s in 2011, each side have been crowned Leinster champions. Vincent’s, Crokes and Ballyboden have all won the All Ireland and Ballymun were only narrowly beaten in the 2013 final.

Ballymun in 2012, Vincent’s in 2013 and Ballyboden in 2015 have all beaten Portlaoise in Leinster finals. While it has been a heart-breaking run of results for the Laois side, the tight nature of the contests show just how close Portlaoise have been.

They have won Leinster titles in 2004 and 2009, but from 12 provincial campaigns, they would have liked to have won more.

Ahead of Sunday’s game, we look back at their battles with the Dublin winners since 2007.

2007 – Leinster Club SFC Semi-final

St Vincent’s 3-13 Portlaoise 1-8

The scoreline in this one didn’t do Portlaoise justice. On their first foray outside of Laois since their Leinster-winning campaign three years earlier, Portlaoise, under the management of Karl Lenihan, went down to a St Vincent’s side that would go on to win the All Ireland the following March.

Portlaoise had a disastrous start, conceding two goals in the opening nine minutes and then had Zach Tuohy, then still a minor, sent off five minutes before half time.

A dejected Zach Tuohy, Portlaoise, leaves the pitch after being sent off during the 2007 Leinster Club SFC semi-final
Brian McCormack, Portlaoise, in action against Hugh Coughlan, right, and Ger Brennan, St. Vincent’s in 2007. Coughlan would later join Portlaoise in 2010

Portlaoise fought back well though and were level coming up to the break, their goal coming from a brilliant Kevin Fitzpatrick finish.

Portlaoise had a couple of great goal chances early in the second half but Peter McNulty (RIP) hit the crossbar and Fitzpatrick forced a save out of Michael Savage.

Portlaoise did get level again but Vincent’s powered on in the final quarter, hitting 1-8 without reply to run out comfortable winners in the end.

Tipperary’s Hugh Coughlan, who would later transfer to play with Portlaoise, was midfield for St Vincent’s that day while future Dublin manager Pat Gilroy scored 1-1 from full-forward.

PORTLAOISE: Michael Nolan; Cahir Healy, Eoin Bland, Aidan Fennelly; Tommy Fitzgerald, Brian Mulligan, Zach Tuohy; Shane McManus, Sean Cotter; Colm Parkinson, Brian McCormack; Peter McNulty, Kevin Fitzpatrick, Barry Fitzgerald. Subs: Brian Glynn for McManus (45), Danny Reddin for McNulty (46), Jack Fennell for Cotter (51)

ST VINCENT’S: M Savage; P Conlon, E Brady, H Gill; T Doyle, G Brennan, P Kelly; H Coughlan, M O’Shea; K Golden, T Diamond, D Connolly; B Maloney, P Gilroy, T Quinn. Subs: R Fallon for Doyle (39), C Brady for Golden (46)

Brian Glynn in action against Kilmacud Crokes in 2010

2010 – Leinster Club SFC Quarter-final

Kilmacud Crokes 2-7 Portlaoise 2-4

Portlaoise came into this game as Leinster club champions having won the provincial title the previous year only to lose to Clare side Kilmurry-Ibrickane in the All Ireland semi-final.

Portlaoise got off to a dream start and led 2-4 to 0-3 early on thanks to goals from a Paul Cahillane penalty and a fisted effort from Tommy Fitzgerald.

But Kilmacud turned things round in the second half and a 58th minute goal from Declan Kelliher ensured the win.

Kilmacud then beat Rhode in the Leinster final before losing to eventual champions Crossmaglen in the All Ireland semi-final.

SCORERS – Kilmacud Crokes: Declan Kelleher 1-1, Craig Dias 1-0, Brian Kavanagh 0-3 (three frees), Mark Vaughan (free), Barry O’Rorke (free), Pat Burke 0-1 each. Portlaoise: Paul Cahillane 1-1 (1-0 penalty), Tommy Fitzgerald 1-0, Barry Fitzgerald (free), Craig Rogers, Brian Glynn 0-1 each.

KILMACUD CROKES: David Nestor; Kevin Nolan, Ross O’Carroll, C Lamb; Brian McGrath, Cian O’Sullivan, Ray Ryan; Niall Corkery, Pat Duggan; Liam Og O hEineachain, Declan Kelleher, Adrian Morrissey; Barry O’Rorke, Brian Kavanagh, Pat Burke. Subs: Craig Dias for Corkery (20), Mark Vaughan for O’Rorke (42).

PORTLAOISE: Michael Nolan; Eoin Bland, Cahir Healy, Brian Mulligan; Kieran Lillis, Hugh Coughlan, Conor Boyle; Adrian Kelly, Brian McCormack; Brian Glynn, Tommy Fitzgerald, Craig Rogers; Paul Cahillane, Barry Fitzgerald, Kevin Fitzpatrick. Subs: Stuart Nerney for Kelly (46), Eoin Browne for Cahillane (60).

Craig Rogers, Portlaoise, Laois, is consoled by a St Brigid’s supporter after their match in 2011

2011 Leinster Club SFC Semi-final

St Brigid’s 2-16 Portlaoise 1-15 – after extra time

It was extra time heartache for Portlaoise in 2011 as an epic in Parnell Park ended with St Brigid’s as narrow winners.

Colm Parkinson got a goal for Portlaoise in the opening half but the sides were level 1-6 apiece at the break, two of St Brigid’s points coming from Laois player John O’Loughlin.

Brigid’s were 1-12 to 1-10 up with ten minutes remaining but points from Craig Rogers and Brian McCormack levelled it only for Barry Cahill to edge Brigid’s ahead in injury time, despite protests that he had overcarried the ball. There was still time for a late equaliser and Barry Fitzgerald held his nerve to send the game to extra time.

The sides were still level 1-15 each at half time of extra time but Brigid’s made a break for it and a late goal sent them into the Leinster final, a game they’d lose narrowly to Garrycastle from Westmeath.

SCORERS – St Brigid’s: Paddy Andrews 1-4, Ken Darcy 0-4 (three frees), Paul Ryan 1-0, John O’Loughlin, Mark Cahill (two frees) 0-2 each, A Daly, Barry Cahill, C Mullins, L McCarthy all 0-1 each. Portlaoise: Adrian Kelly, Brian McCormack 0-4 each, Colm Parkinson 1-0, Paul Cahillane 0-3 (3f), Barry Fitzgerald, Hugh Coughlan, Craig Rogers, Ian Fitzgerald 0-1 each.

ST BRIGID’S: S Supple; C Freeman, S Murray, G Norton; A Daly, M Cahill, G Kane; B Cahill, J O’Loughlin; C Mullins, K Kilmurray, M Cahill; K Darcy, P Andrews, P Ryan. Subs: L McCarthy for Freeman (33), O McCann for Kilmurray (43), D Plunkett for M Cahill (74).

PORTLAOISE: Michael Nolan; Brian Mulligan, Cahir Healy, Kevin Fitzpatrick; Kieran Lillis, Tommy Fitzgerald, Conor Boyle; Hugh Coughlan, Brian Glynn; Colm Parkinson, Brian McCormack, Adrian Kelly; Paul Cahillane, Barry Fitzgerald, Brian Smith. Subs: Craig Rogers for Parkinson (42), Eoin Bland for T Fitzgerald (55), Ian Fitzgerald for Smith (58), Parkinson for Kelly (f-t), Kelly for Parkinson (74).

Elliott Reilly, Ballymun Kickhams, is challenged by Hugh Coughlan, in the 2012 Leinster Club Final

2012 Leinster Club SFC Final

Ballymun Kickhams 0-11 Portlaoise 0-8

Ballymun Kickhams got the better of Portlaoise in 2012 – a hard-fought battle in Mullingar.

Portlaoise trailed 0-6 to 0-2 at half time and 0-9 to 0-3 early in the second half but Portlaoise finished strongly, led by Cahir Healy and Kevin Fitzpatrick, who had come on as a sub at half time.

Ballymun had Dublin players Dean Rock, Philly McMahon and James McCarthy all in central positions while John Small came on as a sub. There was Laois links too with former Mountmellick and Laois underage player Sean George coming on as sub. Corner-forward Shane Forde was a Mayo native who transferred to The Heath this year.

Ballymun later went on to narrowly lose the All Ireland final to Roscommon side St Brigid’s on St Patrick’s Day.

SCORERS – Ballymun Kickhams: Dean Rock 0-6 (all frees), Jason Whelan 0-2 (1f), Ted Furman, Kelvin Leahy, Karl Connolly 0-1 each. Portlaoise: Barry Fitzgerald (frees), Brian McCormack, Cahir Healy 0-2 each, Brian Glynn, Paul Cahillane (free) 0-1 each.

BALLYMUN KICKHAMS: Shane Currie; Enda Dolan, Philly McMahon, Eoin Dolan; Alan Hubbard, Karl Connolly, James Burke; Davy Byrne, James McCarthy; Eoin Reilly, Kelvin Leahy, Jason Whelan; Ted Furman, Dean Rock, Shane Forde. Subs: Derek Byrne for Forde (38), Sean George for Reilly (43), Alan O’Brien for Furman (59), John Small for Leahy (63).

PORTLAOISE: Michael Nolan; Brian Mulligan, Cahir Healy, Tommy Fitzgerald; Paul Cotter, Kieran Lillis, Craig Rogers; Adrian Kelly, Conor Boyle; Hugh Coughlan, Barry Fitzgerald, Brian Glynn; Brian McCormack, Paul Cahillane, Brian Smith. Subs: Kevin Fitzpatrick for Kelly (ht), Brian Gaynor for Mulligan (41), Eoghan Whelan for Smith (45), Ricky Maher for Cahillane (60).

Brian Mulligan lays off possession during the 2013 Leinster Club SFC final

2013 Leinster Club SFC Final

St Vincent’s 3-12 Portlaoise 3-9

An absolute cracker of a game in Tullamore with St Vincent’s edging out Portlaoise thanks to late points from Diarmuid Connolly and Tomas Quinn.

Portlaoise were under Mick Lillis at the time and looked in bother early on when they trailed 2-4 to 0-4.

But Craig Rogers got two brilliant goals – one from a penalty after being fouled himself – and the sides were level 2-5 apiece at the break.

Brian Glynn scored a goal to put Portlaoise four up early in the second half but St Vincent’s rallied and finished stronger to get over the line.

SCORERS – St Vincent’s: Tomás Quinn 0-8 (four frees), Ciarán Dorney, Ruairí Trainor 1-1 each, Shane Carthy 1-0, Gavin Burke, Diarmuid Connolly 0-1 each. Portlaoise: Craig Rogers 2-3 (1-0 pen, 0-3 frees), Brian Glynn 1-1, Paul Cahillane 0-3 (one free), Brian McCormack, Brian Smith 0-1 each.

PORTLAOISE: Michael Nolan; David Seale, Cahir Healy, Thomas Fitzgerald; Kieran Lillis, Paul Cotter, Brian Mulligan; Stuart Nerney, Conor Boyle; Brian Smith, Paul Cahillane, Brian Glynn; Craig Rogers, Brian McCormack, Barry Fitzgerald. Subs: Eoin Whelan for Mulligan (39), Adrian Kelly for Glynn (56), Kevin Fitzpatrick for Cahillane (59).

ST VINCENT’S: Michael Savage; Michael Concarr, Jarlath Curley, Hugh Gill; Cameron Diamond, Ger Brennan, Brendan Egan; Eamon Fennell, Daithi Murphy; Gavin Burke, Diarmuid Connolly, Shane Carthy; Ruairi Trainor, Ciaran Dorney, Tomas Quinn. Subs: Tiernan Diamond for Trainor (42), Ben Quigley for Cameron Diamond (45), Kevin Golden for Dorney (55), Nathan Mullins for Burke (60).

Zach Tuohy, Portlaoise, in action against Hugh Gill, St Vincent’s, in 2014

2014 Leinster Club SFC Quarter-final

St Vincent’s 3-11 Portlaoise 0-10

The 2014 meeting of All Ireland champions St Vincent’s and Portlaoise was one of the rare occasions when Portlaoise didn’t push the Dublin champions all the way.

Played in O’Moore Park, the visitors raced nito a 1-2 to 0-2 lead after just five minutes and although it was 1-4 to 0-6 at the break, two second-half goals from Shane Carthy got Vincent’s over the line.

Vincent’s went on to win Leinster but lost to Derry champions Slaughtneil in the All Ireland semi-final. An interesting feature of the game was a young Graham Brody being introduced as a second-half sub for wing-forward Gareth Dillon.

SCORERS – St Vincent’s: Shane Carthy 2-2; Tomas Quinn 1-3 (0-2 frees); Diarmuid Connolly (one free), Ruairi Treanor, Cormac Diamond 0-2 each. Portlaoise: Paul Cahillane 0-6 (four frees); Craig Rogers 0-2 (one free); Zach Tuohy, Brian McCormack 0-1 each

ST VINCENT’S: M Savage, K Bonnie, J Curley, H Gill, B Egan, G Brennan, M Conarr, E Fennell, D Murphy, G Burke, D Connolly, S Carthy, R Treanor, C Dorney, T Quinn. Subs: Cameron Diamond for Murphy (43), Cormac Diamond for Dorney (47), T Diamond for Burke (55).

PORTLAOISE: Michael Nolan, Paul Cotter, Brian Mulligan, David Seale, Eoghan Whelan, Cahir Healy, Conor Boyle, Kieran Lillis, Shane Nerney, Gareth Dillon, Brian McCormack, Brian Glynn, Paul Cahillane, Zach Tuohy, Craig Rogers. Subs: Adrian Kelly for Nerney (35), Eoghan Feane for Boyle (35), Malachy McNulty for Whelan (42), Murray Rogers for Lillis (Black Card – 49), Graham Brody for Dillon (55).

Gareth Dillon takes on the Ballyboden defence durin the 2015 Leinster Club SFC Final

2015 Leinster Club SFC Final

Ballyboden-St Enda’s 2-9 Portlaoise 1-11

The most heart-breaking one of them all. Another thrilling Leinster final for Portlaoise but another loss, as Aran Waters proved the Ballyboden hero with an injury time winner.

Portlaoise had looked in a good position when they led by two points entering the final ten minutes and could have wrapped it up only for Donegal keeper Paul Durcan tipping a powerful Brian McCormack pushed on to the post.

Colm Basquel equalised for Ballyboden before sub Waters got the winner. Paul Cahillane had a late chance to level things for Portlaoise but his free drifted wide and Ballyboden won the provincial title for the first time, becoming the fourth Dublin winner in a row.

They later went on to beat Castlebar Mitchells in the All Ireland final on St Patrick’s day.

SCORERS – Ballyboden St Enda’s — Andrew Kerin 1-2, Conal Keaney 0-4 (four frees), Michael Darragh Macauley 1-0, Sam Moloney 0-1, Colm Basquel 0-1, Aran Waters 0-1. Portlaoise — Paul Cahillane 1-2 (0-2 frees), Brian McCormack 0-2, Craig Rogers 0-2 (one free), Brian Smyth 0-2, Eoghan Whelan 0-1, Brian Glynn 0-1, Cahir Healy 0-1

BALLYBODEN-ST ENDA’S:  Paul Durcan; Bob Dwane, Shane Clayton, Stephen Hiney; Stephen O’Connor, Darragh Nelson, Robbie McDaid; Michael Darragh Macauley, Declan O’Mahony; Daniel Davey,  Darren O’Reilly, Colm Basquel; Conal Keaney, Sam Moloney, Andrew Kerin. Subs: Sean Gibbons for Davey (33), Aran Waters for O’Reilly (42), Shane Durkin for O’Connor (47), Donagh McCabe for O’Mahony (63).

PORTLAOISE: Graham Brody; David Seale, Cahir Healy, John Delaney; Eoghan Whelan, Kieran Lillis, Brian Mulligan; Dean Cullen, Conor Boyle; Gareth Dillon, Brian Smyth, Brian Glynn; Brian McCormack, Paul Cahillane, Craig Rogers. Subs: Conor Dunphy for Cullen (13), Colin Finn for Whelan (24-26), Ricky Maher for Dillon (52).

SEE ALSO – Kitman Ollie Byrne – a man for all seasons and ‘part of the furniture’

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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.