Laois SFC Semi-final – Portarlington v Portlaoise
In O’Moore Park at 2pm
In a slightly unusual schedule, the first game of the day in O’Moore Park today is the meeting of champions Portlaoise and Portarlington as they act as the curtain raiser to Ballyfin and Killeshin who do battle at 3.30pm.
On paper it’s a very interesting clash. Portlaoise are chasing another three in a row and a 13th final in succession. Port are bidding to reach their first final since they last won it out back in 2001.
It’s Portarlington’s second time in three years to reach this stage and while they were disappointed to lose to Ballylinan two years ago, they look to have a stronger team now than at any stage since that team of 2001.
This looks like a great opportunity for Port. Having won the last two U-21 titles, they have a team packed with players that have represented Laois at all levels. This year that started to be seen at senior with Paddy O’Sullivan, Robbie Pigott, Sean Byrne and Colm Murphy all having made their championship debuts.
Murphy is in incredible form and is the championship’s top scorer while his brother David is having a fine season too.
Martin Murphy, the Gracefield man who guided Stradbally to county final wins in 2005 and 2016, is at the helm and since getting his full panel back together again after the Laois seniors and U-20s finished up, they’ve slowly grown into this championship.
They may have needed replays to see off Ballyroan-Abbey and Graiguecullen and were sluggish in the opening round against The Heath but those extra games are exactly what they needed.
Scoring 5-15 against Graiguecullen the last day shows that they’re beginning to motor.
Portlaoise arrive at this stage with three straight wins – but don’t look to be firing on all cylinders.
They demolished Ballylinan in the first round but since have just scraped by Courtwood and St Joseph’s, scoring just 1-13 and 1-9 in the process.
They will know what they’ve to do to reach a final and have far more accumulated experience than Port. But Graham Brody’s continues absence, injuries to the likes of David Holland, Jason Maher and Frank Flanagan, Brian Glynn only returning to full fitness and Benny Carroll with only limited game time this year leaves them looking slightly vulnerable.
Portlaoise are 1/3 favourites and history is on their side.
But Portarlington are as well-equipped as any side over the last decade and a half to take them out.
There might just be a surprise in this one.
SEE ALSO – Check out all the Laois SFC coverage here