Portlaoise 1-7 St Joseph’s 0-9
1970 Laois SFC Final
Portlaoise have had some great football teams over the years – and the side they had in the late 1960s and early 1970s would hold their own with any in the club’s history.
Having not been a force in the Laois club scene in the first half of the century they won their first title in over 50 years in 1964 and then six in eight years.
It was the start of their dominance of club football in the county. They did three-in-a-row from 1966-1968 but were denied in the final by Timahoe in 1969.
In 1970 they were back in the final again following wins over The Heath and Emo.
On the other side of the draw were St Joseph’s who had only won the junior title in 1967 and the intermediate in 1969. But they were gobbling up titles at underage over the previous decade, including back-to-back minors in 1967-1968.
1970 was their first year in the senior grade and they reached the final thanks to wins over Annanough and Arles. Indeed Arles had been favourites in the semi-final but were beaten 0-7 to 0-5.
Though a competitive side, that Arles team never got to play in a senior final. The club would later split in the 1990s with both Arles-Kilcruise and Arles-Killeen featuring in a number of finals – with Kilcruise famously winning it out in 2003.
St Joseph’s were outsiders in that year’s final. But they could well have forced a draw had Tony O’Brien’s late free been on target.
The Nationalist were well impressed with St Joseph’s in their match report the following week.
“Gallant St Joseph’s fail by a point,” read the headline.
“Intermediate champions last year St Joseph’s can certainly walk tall,” the reporter wrote.
“Not alone did they bring honour to club and parish but also helped to make this final a great one.”
The reporter, however, wasn’t as taken with a melee that took place. “While the game was a thriller all the way it was regrettable that a few players failed to maintain the sporting standard of the majority.
“We saw a number of players from both sides, ably assisted by officials or spectators engaged in a general melee.”
Long-serving Laois goalkeeper Paddy Bracken was praised for “two great saves” while their full-back line of Mick Murphy, Alfie Lewis and Eddie Harkin were all praised too.
Teddy Fennelly, Tom Walsh and sub Jim Hughes were praised as was “the youthful Eamonn Whelan”.
St Joseph’s top men included Tommy Garvan, Pat Fingleton, Paddy Doogue, Tony O’Brien, Aidan Carbery and the Brennan brothers Dessie, Kieran and Leo.
The sides were level 0-4 each at the break and St Joseph’s went two up in the second half and could have extended their lead when they missed a great goal chance.
“Then came the real turning point in the game. A delightful centre by Tom O’Reilly was finished to the net by Brian Delaney to give Portlaoise the lead for the first time.
“It was a lucky break but it was also one of those opportunities that real experienced players can avail of.”
St Joseph’s fought back to level again but Tom Walsh and Tom O’Reilly got late points and the “title was back in the capital town”.
Portlaoise would again win the final in 1971 en route to winning their first Leinster club title.
St Joseph’s time would come in 1973 when they won their first ever senior championship and in what was the club’s finest decade, they won further titles in 1975, 1977 and 1978.
SCORERS – Portlaoise: Tom O’Reilly 0-5, Brian Delaney 1-0, Tom Walsh and Harry Mulhaire 0-1 each; St Joseph’s: Tony O’Brien 0-5, K O’Brien 0-1, Leo Brennan 0-1, Dessie Brennan 0-1, M Owens 0-1
PORTLAOISE: Paddy Bracken; Mick Murphy, Alfie Lewis, Eddie Harkin; Tom Walsh, Teddy Fennelly, Syd Harkin; Mick McDonald, Kevin McGill; Brian Delaney, Paschal Delaney, Eamon Whelan; Tom O’Reilly, JJ Ging, Harry Mulhaire. Subs: Mick Dooley for McGill, Jim Hughes for S Harkin, F Byrne for McDonald.
ST JOSEPH’S: Jodie O’Keeffe; Billy O’Keeffe, Michael Murphy, Danny Owens; Pat Fingleton, Kieran Brennan, Tommy Garvan; Paddy Doogue, Leo Brennan; Michael Owens, Adrian Carbery, PJ Delaney; Kevin O’Brien, Dessie Brennan, Tony O’Brien. Sub: D Hyland for M Owens
REFEREE: Cormac Lally (Abbeyleix)