With the final preparations well underway for the Electric Picnic in the nearby Stradbally Hall, a fourteen man Ballyroan Abbey side were left to rue their lack of composure in front of goal as they had to settle for a draw against Portlaoise on Thursday evening.
Ballyroan Abbey 1-5
Portlaoise’s opening ten minutes was both impressive and somewhat unexpected as these two sides are considered among the contenders for the title, and given that Portlaoise went five points clear in just eight minutes, a complete mismatch looked to be on the cards.
In an eight minute bombardment on the Ballyroan Abbey defence Portlaoise racked up five points, with corner-forward Ricky Maher slotting a hat-trick of points, while Liam McGovern and Tommy Scully hit the target also as Portlaoise looked to have complete control of the game - and it didn’t look like it was going to let up anytime soon.
Somewhat against the turn of play, Ballyroan Abbey launched what was essentially their first noteworthy attack. Padraig McMahon gathered the ball on the forty yard line and made a direct run through the heart of the Portlaoise defence, only to be cynically brought down in the square leaving referee Joe Brennan with no choice but to award a penalty.
With the ball firmly placed on the penalty spot, resident penalty-taker and full-back Eoin Kearns made the trip up to the opposing square before sending Portlaoise goalkeeper Graham Brody the wrong way to give Ballyroan a much needed lifeline in the game.
Luckily for Ballyroan Abbey the goal proved to be a catalyst for their performance as they tightened up at defence and denied Portlaoise a score for twenty-two minutes, while also hitting them for three points through Padraig McMahon and a brace from Jamie Whelan to leave them a point ahead going in at the break.
Portlaoise continued their quick-response scoring from the whistle and notched three points without reply from Ricky Maher, Fergal Fennell and Tommy Scully. Yet again Ballyroan Abbey proved to be slow to get-going from throw-in as they watched their one point advantage turn into a two point deficit in just minutes.
With five minutes to go Ballyroan Abbey staged a final flurry which drew them with just a minute left to play thanks to points from James Keegan and Niall Wallace. With injury time more or less up Ballyroan were presented with two tricky long-range frees, but failed to capitalise on a remarkable turnaround.
SCORERS - Ballyoran Abbey: Eoin Kearns 1-0 (penalty), Jamie Whelan 0-2, Padraig McMahon, James Keegan and Niall Wallace 0-1 each; Portlaoise: Ricky Maher 0-4 (two frees), Tommy Scully 0-2, Liam McGovern and Fergal Fennell 0-1 each.
BALLYROAN ABBEY: Gary Scully; Mark Cahill, Eoin Kearns, Philip Shortall; Niall Wallace, Ruairi Dunne, Jamie Bartley; Daire Phelan, John Murphy; James Keegan, Scott Conroy, Ciaran Keegan; Padraig McMahon, Mick Brennan, Jamie Whelan. SUBS: Alan Burnell for John Murphy; Eoin O’Brien for Mark Cahill.
PORTLAOISE: Graham Brody; Brian McCormack, Brian Seale, Colin Flynn; Fintan Walsh, Chris Higgins, Murry Rogers; Liam McGovern, Stuart Nerney; David Seale, Fergal Fennell, Tommy Scully; Brian Dunne, Mark Kavanagh, Ricky Maher. SUBS: Conor Dunphy for Brian Dunne.
Referee: Joe Brennan (Crettyard)