Portlaoise 1-8 Ballylinan 0-5
Laois Shopping Centre SFC Round 1
Portlaoise advanced to the winners section of Round 2 of the Laois senior football championship following a six-point win over Ballylinan in Stradbally this evening.
This was a repeat of last year’s Round 1 where, despite playing with a man less for the majority of the game, Portlaoise won 2-18 to 0-11.
But Ballylinan, under new manager Mick Lillis, were much better this time and it was only really in the final quarter that the game got away from them.
They relied entirely on Gary Walsh for scores too and with Cahir Healy marshaling him – only one of his five points came from play. While Chris Finn doubled up on him in the second half to make his scoring opportunities hard to create.
This was the first game for Portlaoise of life without Bruno McCormack and they weren’t helped in an attacking sense either when they lost Paul Cahillane to injury early on.
The game began with that Gary Walsh point and Ballylinan almost had a goal a minute later when Seamus Lacey got through on goal but blazed his shot wide from a tight angle.
Portlaoise levelled matters with a John Kavanagh free and then moments later they had the ball in the net when Ciaran McEvoy intercepted and fed Damon Larkin who burst through to score.
Jason Maher added a free and Portlaoise squandered a good goal chance then when Ciaran McEvoy overcooked a handpass to John Kavanagh which would’ve left him with an open goal.
Gary Walsh tagged on a free after the water break and then had a brilliant goal chance when he capitalised on a slip from Cahir Healy to race clear only to see his shot splendidly saved by Graham Brody.
Walsh did cut the gap to two after 25 minutes but a long range fisted point from Gareth Dillon left Portlaoise 1-3 to 0-3 ahead at the break.
They came flying out of the traps on the resumption and Kieran Lillis, who had been quiet up to that point, charged forward and laid off the ball to sub Brian Smith only for Kevin Byrne to come from nowhere and make a goal saving tackle.
Gary Walsh landed a free after that and although Ricky Maher wiped that out, Walsh hit another after 38 minutes to leave it 1-4 to 0-5.
Unfortunately for Ballylinan, they wouldn’t score again as their shooting deserted them.
John Kavanagh landed his second free before Kieran Lillis popped up with a great score to leave it 1-6 to 0-5 with 15 minutes to play.
Ballylinan kept battling and Cathal Leonard clawed a John Kavanagh effort off the line to keep them in the game.
In the end, it was all in vein as Ricky Maher slotted two late free to see the Town head on to the next stage.
Ballylinan head for the Loser’s section where another defeat will leave them in a relegation semi final.
SCORERS – Portlaoise: Damon Larkin 1-0, Ricky Maher 0-3 (all frees), John Kavanagh 0-2 (both frees), Kieran Lillis, Gareth Dillon and Jason Maher (free) 0-1 each Ballylinan: Gary Walsh 0-5 (four frees)
PORTLAOISE: Graham Brody; Chris Finn, Frank Flanagan, Cahir Healy; Gareth Dillon, Gary Saunders, David Seale; Ciaran McEvoy, Kieran Lillis; David Holland, John Kavanagh, Damon Larkin; Paul Cahillane, Jason Maher, Ricky Maher. Subs: Brian Smith for Cahillane (10 – injured), Paddy Downey for Seale (ht)
BALLYLINAN: Pádraig Walsh; Cathal Leonard, Robbie Donoher, Kevin Byrne; Alan Farrell, Seamus Lacey, Oisin Leonard; Jamie Farrell, Pádraig McEvoy; Cathal Fennessy, Ciaran Farrell, Larry Kealy; Ciaran Fennessy, Cathail Dunne, Gary Walsh. Subs: Andy McEvoy for Leonard (15), Liam Kealy for Cathal Fennessy (36), John Kealy for Larry Kealy (40) Luke Philips for Dunne (50)
REFEREE: Clifford Ward (Portarlington)
SEE ALSO – Check out all our Laois SFC coverage here