Portlaoise 0-15 Graigue-Ballycallan 2-17
Leinster Club IHC Final
Laois senior hurling manager Eddie Brennan was to the fore as Graigue-Ballycallan ended Portlaoise’s Leinster dreams in Nowlan Park this afternoon.
He was part of a full forward line that contributed 2-8 from play and got a real run on the Portlaoise defence at the start of the second half which is ultimately where the game was won.
But it was far from comfortable for the Kilkenny side as Portlaoise pushed them all the way and staged a late comeback which just fell short.
It beings to an end an incredible year for Portlaoise who, despite losing the first two games of the Laois championship, went on a remarkable winning sequence which took them all the way here.
Portlaoise played against the breeze in the first half but made a good start.
Conor Murphy put Graigue-Ballycallan ahead with the first of his five first half frees – but Cathal Duggan and Cormac Rigney gave the Town the lead after five minutes.
Graigue-Ballycallan leveled matters and then rocked Portlaoise with a goal a minute later.
Sean O’Dwyer did all the hard work before finding new Laois senior hurling boss Eddie Brennan and he rattled the net.
Portlaoise were creaking now and almost conceded another goal but Chris Lynch made an incredible block to keep Sean Ryan’s shot out.
But after that scare, Portlaoise settled down and more than matched the Kikenny champions for the remainder of the half.
Cathal Duggan, Cormac Rigney and David O’Mahony were all on the scoreboard as Portlaoise narrowed the gap to two points as we entered injury time.
However, two late frees from Conor Murphy sent Graigue-Ballycallan in ahead by 1-8 to 0-7 at half time.
Sean Ryan, Aaron Brennan and Murphy extended Graigue-Ballycallan’s lead on the resumption of play but Tommy Fitzgerald replied for Portlaoise.
Eddie Brennan and Murphy pointed again for Graigue-Ballycallan and they found themselves 1-13 to 0-8 up after 40 minutes.
Tommy Fitzgerald finally broke the scoring spree but Conor Murphy quickly cancelled that out with his eight free of the game.
Cormac Rigney hit another free for Portlaoise but Sean Ryan left eight between them as we entered the final quarter.
But Portlaoise kept battling and got the next four points via Taylor, Rigney and O’Mahony and substitute Colm Gleeson to leave four in it after 52 minutes.
Graigue-Ballycallan were rattled now but after four poor wides, they finally scored through Conor Murphy to go give up as we entered injury time – of which there would be three minutes.
Cormac Rigney got one back for Portlaoise but a late Sean Ryan point and a goal from Aaron Brennan settled the game in the victor’s favour.
SCORERS – PORTLAOISE: Cormac Rigney 0-6 (four frees), Cathal Duggan 0-2, David O’Mahony 0-2, Cian Taylor 0-1, Tommy Fitzgerald 0-2 GRAIGUE-BALLYCALLAN: Conor Murphy 0-9 (eight frees), Aaron Brennan 1-3, Eddie Brennan 1-1, Sean Ryan 0-4
PORTLAOISE: Eoghan Nealon; Frank Flanagan, Chris Lynch, Joe Geaney; Brian Mulligan, Cahir Healy, Ciaran McEvoy; Dean Lynch, Gary Bergin; Tommy Fitzgerald, David O’Mahony, Cormac Rigney; Keith Murphy, Cian Taylor, Cathal Duggan. Subs: Dylan Feane for Geaney (18m, inj), Colm Gleeson for Murphy (ht), Aaron Bergin for G Bergin (42m), Joe Phelan for D Lynch (57)
GRAIGUE-BALLYCALLAN: Ciaran Hoyne; Darragh Egan, Bob Murphy, Tommy Ronan; Conor Flynn, Eamon Egan, Killian Egan; Shane Butler, Jesse Roberts; Billy Ryan, Eddie Brennan, Conor Murphy; Aaron Brennan, Sean O’Dwyer, Sean Ryan. Subs: Padraic Dunphy for Roberts (40m)
Referee: Gearoid McGrath (Wexford)