After a three week hiatus, Portlaoise senior footballers will resume their quest for glory this Sunday afternoon when they welcome Louth champions St Patrick’s to O’Moore Park.
They do so as massive favourites too, with Paddy Power having instalment at almost ridiculous odds of 1/10 for a straight knockout game against the Louth champions. While Louth team have traditionally been dealt with comfortable by Portlaoise in Leinster, St Pat’s are still a good side.
The jewel in their crown is All-Star midfielder Paddy Keenan, and his form is reason enough for Portlaoise to sit up and take notice. In the drawn Louth SFC final with Newtown Blues, he scored 0-7 from midfield, before going on to hit 1-2 in the replay. His goal came at a crucial time as well, and he is one of the form players in the province at the moment.
Portlaoise won’t be in awe of him, they aren’t in awe of anyone, but if they can keep his influence to a minimum, it will go a long way to securing a safe passage to a Leinster quarter-final for them.
It is St Pat’s fourth title in nine years, but that obviously pales in comparison to Portlaoise’s current record breaking run of five in row. That run has also given Portlaoise an extended run in the Leinster club SFC too, and they are well versed in what it takes to be succesful at this stage of the season.
If anything, Portlaoise will be disappointed at only having one Leinster title to show for their current run of success, and no doubt they will be looking to change that statistic this year. They won’t be looking that far ahead just yet, but they will know that a result such as that is the reward waiting for them if they can scale to the summit of Leinster club football.
Again, the bookies have every faith in them to do just that, having installed them as 6/4 favourites for the Leinster championship, while they are currently at 8/1 for the All-Ireland, with only Crossmaglen, Dr Crokes, Corofin and St Brigid’s (Roscommon) ahead of them in the reckoning.
They will have to alter things slightly this weekend, with Zach Tuohy no longer available now that he is back in Australia with Carlton. They have the squad to compensate, but his strength and ability to carry the ball forward at speed, a valuable asset at this time of the year, will be sorely missed.
Luckily for Portlaoise, they play to a very effective system which any member of their squad can fit seemlessy into. They will move the ball quickly and their forwards will keep St Pat’s defenders on their toes with their almost perpetual motion.
They did enough to breeze through the Laois SFC, but they still have improving to do. They missed too many easy chances in the final against Graiguecullen for it to be dismissed out of hand; they will have to be more ruthless and more clinical if they are to seriously contend with the higher standard of teams they now find themselves up against.
They are certainly good enough to see off St Pat’s here, particularly with home advantage, but they still need to raise their game.
Any future success this year has to start here, and they need to show they are capable of more this Sunday.