If any of the pretenders to Portlaoise’s long-held Senior throne were in O’Moore Park on Sunday evening they will have left with a sinking feeling.
In a ruthless display of at times untouchable attacking football Portlaoise cut through the unfortunate Crettyard men to chalk up a huge win and already it would appear that it is going to be next to impossible for any other side to take the title out of the county town for the first time in six years.
From start to finish Portlaoise poured forward with incessant energy and the quality all over the park that has set them apart from all others in the county was again everywhere to be seen. Rock solid at the back, dominant in midfield and telepathic and clinical up front, Crettyard barely got a look-in, particularly in the first half.
After just five minutes Portlaoise had amassed a six-point lead with Bruno McCormack’s first minute goal dispelling any hopes that Crettyard might have had about catching the champions on a first round off-day. Put through on goal by a pinpoint Paul Cahillane pass, McCormack dispatched with style past Darren Kelly.
Points from Cahillane, Craig Rogers and Kevin Fitzpatrick extended the lead before Crettyard were given hope when Paul Cotter hauled Evan O’Carroll to the ground and with referee Colm Kelly correctly awarding the penalty, Keith Nolan stepped up to provide the finish from the spot.
Undeterred, Portlaoise responded emphatically with a run of scores in a ten minute spell that left the result beyond all doubt with only a third of the game gone. The points came thick and fast from the likes of Bruno McCormack, Craig Rogers, Adrian Kelly and Paul Cahillane and two quick fire goals with ten minutes of the half remaining left Crettyard trailing by thirteen points.
They were almost carbon copies of each other, with Craig Rogers first setting up Brian Glynn to tap into an empty net and seconds later another quick break down the left saw Bruno McCormack do the same for Kevin Fitzpatrick who punched home from a few yards out.
Cristoir Maher converted a free at the other end but late points from Paul Cahillane, Brian Glynn and Hugh Coughlan meant that Portlaoise were sixteen points to the good at the halfway mark. Unfortunately for Crettyard there was little let up in Portlaoise’s play after the break and despite a number of poor wides shortly after the restart, that sixteen point advantage would be doubled by the time Colm Kelly’s final whistle brought Crettyard’s miserable evening to a close.
It took six minutes for Town to get back into the scoring mood through Bruno McCormack’s neat point but Crettyard were finding it next to impossible to breach the Portlaoise defence and by the time they did, a full twenty four minutes into the second period, Portlaoise had hit two more goals and were coasting into the winners side of the upcoming draw.
Paul Cahillane nabbed the first of those goals from the penalty spot nine minutes into the half. Hugh Coughlan’s teasing ball in was gathered by Kevin Fitzpatrick and when he was pulled down by Mark Kelly, Cahillane converted with a neat effort into the bottom corner that was so perfectly placed that not even the correct guess and outstretched hand of Darren Kelly could keep it out.
Kevin Fitzpatrick could easily have hit his second goal minutes later when he was teed up by Adrian Kelly’s clever hand-pass but he had to make do with a point after he punched onto the cross bar and over. A series of excellently worked points from Craig Rogers, Brian Glynn and Paul Cahillane stretched the lead before their fifth goal of the game with ten minutes remaining. Again Craig Rogers was tireless in its creation and this time it fell to Hugh Coughlan to apply the finishing touch with a stinging low drive.
Crettyard could do little to quell the Portlaoise surge but a couple of late points, including Keith Nolan’s effort with six minutes left which was their first from play, followed quickly by a fine effort from sub Liam Kelly did at least show some fighting spirit from the disheartened underdogs. However, it was Portlaoise who fittingly rounded off the encounter with an injury time Adrian Kelly goal and their first step to the six in a row was taken with devastating class.
Scorers: Portlaoise – Paul Cahillane 1-5(1-0 pen, 0-2f), Kevin Fitzpatrick and Adrian Kelly 1-3 each, Brian McCormack and Brian Glynn 1-2 each, Hugh Coughlan 1-1, Craig Rogers 0-3f, Jack Fennell 0-1. Crettyard – Keith Nolan 1-1, Cristoir Maher 0-1 (1f) and Liam Kelly 0-1 each.
Portlaoise: Mickey Nolan, Cahir Healy, Paul Cotter, Brian Gaynor, Jo Jo Salmon, Kieran Lillis, Conor Boyle, Brian Glynn, Adrian Kelly, Brian McCormack, Jack Fennell, Hugh Coughlan, Paul Cahillane, Kevin Fitzpatrick, Craig Rogers. Subs: Tommy Fitzgerald for McCormack (48mins).
Crettyard: Darren Kelly, Michael Jordan, Eddie O’Reilly, John Jones, Conor Barry, Jimmy Brennan, Sean O’Reilly, John Graham, Patrick O’Reilly, Keith Nolan, Patrick Brennan, Philip Brennan, Evan O’Carroll, Cristoir Maher, Raymond Buggy. Subs: Mark Kelly for E O’Reilly (21mins), Sean O’Shea for P O’Reilly (35mins), Liam Kelly for Buggy (48mins), Dominic Buggy for Maher (50mins).
Referee: Colm Kelly (St Josephs)