Portlaoise put their second round defeat to Graiguecullen firmly behind them on Saturday as they cruised into the quarter-finals with a 12 point win over Ballylinan in O’Moore Park.
The six times defending champions were slow to pull away as Ballylinan’s blanket defence proved very difficult to break down. However 1-8 in an 11 minute spell either broke Ballylinan’s brave resistance as Portlaoise eased away and they were never threatened for the remainder of the game.
While Portlaoise are in the quarter-finals, they still have plenty of room for improvement if they are to win an unprecedented seventh senior title in a row.
Apart from the free scoring spell either side of half-time, Portlaoise were ponderous in possession, regularly overplayed the ball and there was a general reluctance to shoot when the opportunity arose. Ballylinan set out their stall to defend from the start, at times having 14 players in their own half, and for large periods Portlaoise lacked the guile and creativity to break them down.
They were never in any danger of losing the game to a Ballylinan side who scored twice from play over the course of the game, the first after 47 minutes.
Ballylinan held their own in the opening 20 minutes making life very difficult for their opponents and they were only a point behind. They were also unfortunate not to score two goals when the game was close but once Portlaoise pulled away, Ballylinan never threatened a comeback.
It was nip and tuck in the opening quarter with Portlaoise narrowly ahead at 0-3 to 0-2. Kevin Fitzpatrick (free), Brian McCormack and a ‘45 from Michael Nolan accounted for Portlaoise’s scores with two Gary Walsh frees keeping Ballylinan in touch. Walsh came with inches of finding the back of the net after nine minutes but his deft lob over the advancing Nolan hit the underside of the crossbar and was cleared.
With both sides guilty of poor passing and Portlaoise in particular guilty of overplaying the ball, scores were at a premium with a good first time shot from Paul Cahillane on 20 minutes putting Portlaoise two ahead. Ballylinan again came close to finding the back of the net when Brian McEvoy volleyed a shot from close range but Kieran Lillis was on hand to block the effort. Gary Walsh put over the resulting ‘45 to leave one in it again but by the time they added to their total again 17 minutes into the second-half, they were 12 points behind and out of the game.
During that spell Portlaoise were far more incisive in their attacking play and points from Kevin Fitzpatrick, Paul Cahillane (free) and two from Brian Smith left them 0-8 to 0-3 ahead at the break.
Forty-five seconds after the restart Portlaoise jumped into an eight point lead when Adrian Kelly blasted the ball to the back of the net from close range after Shane McManus had initially looked like he had wasted a glorious opportunity.
A point from Brian Smith and three from Paul Cahillane extended the lead to 12 before Cieran Farrell responded with Ballylinan’s first point from play after 47 minutes.
With the game over as a contest, the sides added seven points between them in the final ten minutes with Gary Walsh (2) and Aidan Walsh finding the target for Ballylinan while Murray Rogers, Brian Glynn (2) and Brian Smith rounded off the scoring for Portlaoise as the game petered out to its inevitable conclusion.
Scorers: Portlaoise: Paul Cahillane 0-5 (0-2f); Brian Smith 0-4; Adrian Kelly 1-0; Brian Glynn 0-2; Kevin Fitzpatrick 0-2 (0-1f); Brian McCormack 0-1; Barry Fitzgerald 0-1. Ballylinan: Gary Walsh 0-5 (0-3f, 0-2 ‘45); Cieran Farrell 0-1; Aidan Walsh 0-1
Portlaoise: Michael Nolan; Malachy McNulty, Paul Cotter, Brian Mulligan; Eoin Whelan, Kieran Lillis, Conor Boyle; Stuart Nerney, Adrian Kelly; Shane McManus, Paul Cahillane, Brian Glynn; Brian McCormack, Kevin Fitzpatrick, Brian Smith. Subs: Garreth Dillon for Kevin Fitzpatrick (42mins), Barry Fitzgerald for Brian McCormack (48mins), Eoghan Feane for Paul Cotter (49mins), Murray Rogers for Eoin Whelan (54mins), Kevin Fitzpatrick for Stuart Nerney (54mins)
Ballylinan: Darren Burke; Cathal Leonard, Alan Kehoe, Eric Kenna; Padraig Walsh, Gary Walsh, Cathal Fennessy; John Kealy, Cieran Farrell; Jamie Farrell, Gary Walsh, Conor Harrington; Brian McEvoy, Alan Farrell, Aidan Walsh. Subs: Liam Kealy for Conor Harrington (36mins), Jobie Brophy for Jamie Farrell (54mins), Mark Behan for Gary Walsh (58mins)