There’s an amount of GAA competitions that struggle to fit into the calendar year – and the old U-17 championship was one of those back at the turn of the milennium.
A winter competition it got delayed in 2000 and carried over into the spring of 2001.
When it finally got whittled down to two teams – it was Portlaoise and Mountmellick that were left standing.
Mountmellick were strong at that age group and had won the corresponding U-14 and U-16 titles.
But Portlaoise had a strong group of players and they proved far too good for Mountmellick in the decider.
Among Portlaoise’s team were many players who would go on to play at a higher level.
Brian Mulligan, John Delaney, Tommy Fitzgerald, Barry Fitzgerald, Peter McNulty (RIP) and Sean Cotter all went on to win Laois senior medals with the club while Alan Kingsley and Tadhg Murphy excelled at rugby and soccer respectively with Kingsley playing with Garryowen and Young Munster in Limerick and Murphy playing League of Ireland soccer.
Many of the Mountmellick players would enjoy decent adult careers too – with the likes of Shane Conlon, Mark Turner, Michael Lawlor, David Ryan, Donnachadh O’Mahony and Darragh Hanlon all winning intermediate football medals in 2006 with the club.
Mountmellick also had players from Kilcavan involved – David Heneghan, Paddy Gorry and Declan Conroy all starting.
While Portlaoise easily won this particular final, they’d suffer final disappointment later that year when a combination known as St John Bosco’s (Crettyard, Spink and Ballinakill) beat them in the minor final.
Sadly, three players from that game have since passed away – Conor Davis from Mountmellick in 2002 and Portlaoise’s Peter McNulty in 2010 and Eoin Fingleton in 2019.
PORTLAOISE: Brian Farrell; Owen Hughes, John Delaney, Eoin Fingleton; Alan Kingsley, Brian Mulligan, Brian Devaney; Tadhg Murphy, Tommy Fitzgerald; Peter McNulty, Sean Tobin, Liam Phelan; Barry Fitzgerald, Keith Lalor, Sean Browne. Subs: Sean Cotter, Robert Coady, Keith Hughes, Danny O’Shea, Kieran Daly
MOUNTMELLICK: Ross Morrissey; Ciaran O’Mahony, Conor Davis, Mark Turner; K Healion, David Ryan, David Heneghan; Shane Conlon, Michael Lawlor; Declan Conroy, Donnachadh O’Mahony, Alan O’Toole; Paddy Gorry, Mark Reddin, Dean Goode. Subs: Darragh Hanlon