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County Final Memory: Emo’s greatest day in 1972

The Emo team that were beaten by The Heath in the 1974 Laois SFC final - they had won their first and only title two years earlier in 1972

Emo 2-11 Graiguecullen 3-4
1972 Laois SFC Final

Emo GAA club have a proud tradition but despite coming close over the years their 1972 Laois senior football success remains the greatest day in their history.

In late October of that year they produced a stunning display to get the better of Graiguecullen to round off an exceptional season.

They had earlier beaten a Portlaoise side that had not only won five of the previous six championships – but were also the reigning Leinster club champions.

But Emo had a fine side and they dominated the opening half of the final against Graiguecullen with a Johnny Lawlor goal helping them race into a 1-7 to 0-1 lead after 22 minutes.

Graigue responded with a goal from Jim Nelson but at half time, Emo were well in control leading 1-8 to 1-2.

Emo stretched further clear throughout the second half with Christy O’Connor particularly to the fore and a goal from county man Brian Lawlor with eight minutes remaining in the game had them to a commanding 2-11 to 1-3 lead.

Graigue hit back with goals from Nelson and Andy Fennell and a point from Mick Fennell to reduce the gap to four points.

With just a couple of minutes remaining, the Leinster Express report noted that “the crowd were now really excited for the first time”.

But “Emo fought hard to stem the incessant Graigue pressure”. “Gabriel and Paddy Lawlor and the other Emo defenders took everything Graigue threw at them in the last desperate minutes”.

But the paper added that Emo weren’t flattered by the four-point winning margin and it was a “well deserved victory which brought the senior title to the little village for the first time”.

“This win, their glorious first, was the fulfillment of their ambitions,” added the report which also praised their “dashing exhibition of fast, open football”.

“Brian Fenion had an excellent game in the Emo goal,” went the report at the end as it summarised the game’s best perfomers.

“He could not have asked for better cover especially from Arthur McCluskey, Gabriel Lawlor and Franke Walsh in defence.

“Tom Browne had another fine game at midfield while Jimmy Dowling also put in some fine work.

“The Lawlors and Christy O’Connor were outstanding in attack while Eamon Mulhall and Mick Nerney were also very dangerous forwards.

“Pat Moran had a wonderful game in goal for Graigue. He made some terrific saves and but for his display his side would surely have suffered a much heavier defeat.

“Eddie Harte, especially in the early stages, Gar Hearns and substitute Willie Ramsbottom were the most effective defenders.

“Ernie Culleton and Denis Moran played well at midfield but seemed out of touch for long spells

“Up front Willie Brennan gave a brilliant display and on this and other recent showings he has certainly a bright future. Din Byrne, Mick Fennell and Jim Nelson were also to the forefront.”

Emo would reach the senior final again in 1974 only to be beaten after a replay by The Heath and further final losses came in 1986 to Portlaoise, 1994 to St Joseph’s and in 2004 and 2015 to Portlaoise.

That 1972 final appearance was Graiguecullen’s first since winning the final seven years earlier in 1965.

And it was the start of a losing streak for them as they lost finals again in 1975 (after a replay), 1976, 1980, 1981 and 2011.

SCORERS – Christy O’Connor 0-6, Johnny Lawlor and Brian Lawlor 1-1 each, Jimmy Dowling 0-2, Eamonn Mulhall 0-1.  Graiguecullen: Jim Nelson 2-0, Andy Fennell 1-1, Mick Fennell 0-2, Willie Brennan 0-1.

EMO: Brian Fenlon; Eddie Bailey, Arthur McCluskey, Paddy Treacy; Frank Walsh, Gabriel Lawlor, Paddy Lawlor; Tom Browne, Jimmy Dowling; Johnny Lawlor, Tom Dowling, Christy O’Connor; Eamonn Mulhall, Brian Lawlor, Michael Nerney.

GRAIGUECULLEN: Pat Moran; Jack Byrne, Eddie Harte, Ger Hearns; Mick Lalor, Ber Hand, George Ramsbottom; Denis Moran, Ernie Culliton; Wille Brennan, Mick Fennell, Danny Doogue; Andy Fennell, Dinny Byrne, Jim Nelson. Subs: Willie Ramsbottom for B Hand

REFEREE: Teddy Delaney (Stratlbally)

SEE ALSO – Check out more pieces from our County Final Memory series here