Portarlington 5-15 Graiguecullen 3-7
Laois Shopping Centre SFC Quarter Final
In a game high on scores and excitement, but low on defensive solidity, Portarlington were deserving winners. They lead by ten points at half time, weathered a furious Graiguecullen comeback early in the second half, and then finished strongly to seal the win.
They scored five brilliant goals too and will certainly bring plenty of attacking flair to what will be a mouthwatering semi-final with Portlaoise in ten days time.
Graiguecullen made the better start, as Jamie Parr popped over a 21 yard free with barely a minute on the clock. Not long after that, goalkeeper Danny Bolger trotted up to take a free out on the right wing, and duly bisected the posts with a sweetly struck effort.
That proved to be something of a false dawn for Graiguecullen in this first half though, as Portarlington quickly gained the upper hand. David Murphy got their opening score before Jake Foster and Colm Murphy pointed frees to put them a point ahead. From there, the gap only grew.
Stephen O’Neill kicked a lovely score from the right wing and then Colin Slevin rounded off a nice move to push them three ahead.
Danny Bolger tried to prompt a response from Graigue with another free, but Port hit back with interest through another Colm Murphy free and Slevin’s second from play. The Graiguecullen resistance was sporadic at best, a Jamie Parr free this time being offered as their route back into the game, but Port wouldn’t allow it.
Murphy landed his third free of the half for them before one of the best goals the championship has seen in recent years. Winning possession on their own 21 yard line, Port quickly broke through Paddy O’Sullivan, who was passing halfway within seconds.
He looked to his right and found Sean Byrne with a good kick pass, and he, David Murphy and Colm Murphy interchanged passes before setting Byrne clear on goal once more, and his powerful finish flew past Danny Bolger.
Graiguecullen were still reeling from that score when Port struck again, as David Murphy supplied the finish this time from close range, with Bolger doing well to get a touch on the ball, though not enough to keep it out.
David Murphy then boomed one over from distance and Parr hit another free from close range to round off the scoring for the half, but the damning statistic for Graigue after the opening 30 minutes was that they had failed to score from play.
Graiguecullen could only but improve on the restart, and they plumped for experience to bring it about. Michael Hand, Danny Doogue and Shane O’Neill were all drafted in at half time, and the mood quickly shifted for the men in green and red.
Ross Hennessy got their first score from play with a point after two minutes, and Colm Murphy replied for Port with a nice effort from 35 yards out. Then came the first Graiguecullen stride towards recovery.
A long ball found Aaron Forbes in the penalty area and his neat, left-footed finish found the bottom corner. Stephen O’Neill tried to settle Port with a nice point, but Graiguecullen had finally found some form. A minute later they won a 14 yard free, and while Port players were arguing with Maurice Deegan, James Doogue grabbed the ball and hammered a shot to the net.
That left five between them and Graigue were now on the hunt, but Port would eventually wrestle back control of the game. Colin Slevin and Ross Hennessy traded points before Port broke through the Graigue defence and David Murphy coolly placed a right-footed shot into the top corner.
Colm Murphy then pointed a free before lovely interplay from Graiguecullen on the edge of the area ended with Jake Foster playing a pass across the goalmouth for an unmarked Colm Murphy to palm to the net. Game over, right? Wrong.
Two minutes later, Graiguecullen launched a high ball into the area, Michael Hand broke it down and Danny Doogue swept the ball to the net. Port’s response was in keeping with a madcap second half, as they poured forward from the kickout and Colin Slevin ended up slipping a shot under Danny Bolger from an almost impossible angle.
That was the goal which finally, decisively, swung the game in Portarlington’s favour. Jake Foster added a couple of frees late on for the winners, but they had the hard work done at that stage.
They now advance to meet Portlaoise, in what should be a cracking semi-final.
SCORERS – Portarlington: David Murphy 2-2, Colm Murphy 1-5 (0-4 frees), Colin Slevin 1-3, Sean Byrne 1-0, Jake Foster 0-3 (all frees), Stephen O’Neill 0-2. Graiguecullen: Danny Doogue, James Doogue (free), Aaron Forbes 1-0 each, Jamie Parr 0-3 (all free), Ross Hennessy 0-2, Danny Bolger 0-2 (frees).
PORTARLINGTON: Scott Osborne; Diarmuid Bennett, Keith Bracken, Alex Mohan; Paddy O’Sullivan, Jason Moore, Robbie Pigott; Sean Byrne, Adam Ryan; Colin Slevin, Colm Murphy, Stephen O’Neill; Jake Foster, David Murphy, Ronan Coffey. Subs: Eoin McCann for Moore (30 mins), Jonathon Fullam for O’Neill (39 mins), Darragh Galvin for Coffey (47 mins), Cathal Ryan for C Murphy (60 mins), Hayden Weldon for Foster (62 mins)
GRAIGUECULLEN: Danny Bolger; Shane Aylward, Ross Alcock, Martin Doyle; Luke Alsybury, Mark Timmons, Chris Hurley; Trevor Collins, Jamie Sheehan; Danny Alsybury, Aaron Forbes, Jamie Parr; Ross Hennessy, Brian Byrne, Ian Fleming. Subs: Eoin Alsybury for Aylward (28 mins), Shane O’Neill for Sheehan (half time), Michael Hand for Fleming (half time), Danny Doogue for Parr (half time), James Doogue for D Alsybury (35 mins), Bobby Doyle for Timmons (56 mins, inj)
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Stradbally)
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