Portlaoise could not have asked for a better response to their one point defeat last week to table toppers Castletown-Slieve Bloom after conjuring up a more than comfortable six point win over struggling Kyle last Wednesday night.
Laois Junior Hurling Championship
The game waited four minutes for the first score, and it came from Portlaoises wing forward Paddy Ryan when he found space to execute a superb finish between the posts. He soon doubled his tally a minute later to give his team a two point lead in the early stages. Kyle’s reply to the two point deficit was rapid, and when Portlaoise failed to clear a ball from their half back line, Darren Gilmartin was quickest to gather the loose ball and tap it between the posts.
The rest of the half was really all Portlaoise, as quick passing, support play and wise decisions seemed to be the only things separating the teams. These factors showed when Gary Bergin collected a ball on the right wing and was able to give a cross-field pass to the supporting Dermot Lawlor, who had as much time as he wanted to give his team a four point cushion after fifteen minutes.
Kyle’s soon-to-be top scorer Darren Gilmartin added another to his personal tally when he struck the ball over the black spot from the right wing to end an eleven minute scoring drought, but it was quickly cancelled when Brian McCormack tapped over a score from the twenty one yard line, sending his team into the interval six points to the good.
Kyle came out looking like a different team, hitting the first two scores in the space of three minutes, but Gary Bergin settled things down soon after when he tapped over a free to give Portlaoise their first score of the half.
Just as the thirty fifth minute mark approached, Portlaoises defence was split open during a Kyle attack giving the visitors a chance for goal, but great running by Portlaoise wing back Chris Lynch gave him just enough time to gain some ground to pounce upon a loose ball and, in doing so, give his defence some breathing space for a little while at least.
Kyle were soon back on the offence again, and substitute Gearóid Walsh tapped over a free which he won himself to close the gap to five points. As the game marched into the final ten minutes, it was still the men in blue playing catch up, and two points from Portlaoise midfielder Tommy Mulligan and one from Dean Lynch extended their lead even further.
A goal seemed on the offering for Kyles Gearóid Walsh when he struck a bullet through the Portlaoise defence, only to be superbly stopped by keeper Darragh McAuley and cleared out of the full back line.
As the game went into extra time it was too little too late for the Kyle men, and even though Gearóid Walsh did find the net in the 61st minute, it was nothing but a consolation as Portlaoise pushed on to grab victory. Kyle now await the tricky challenge of Castletown-Slieve Bloom in the final round, while Portlaoise will look to make it two in a row, as they travel to Clough-Ballacolla.
SCORERS - Portlaoise: Paddy Ryan 0-5, Brian McCormack 0-4, Brian Mulligan 0-2, Dermot Lawlor, Mark Mulligan, Rock Scully (free), Gary Bergin (free), Dean Lynch 0-1 each; Kyle: Gearóid Walsh 1-2 (all frees), Darren Gilmartin: 0-4 (one free), Barry Grady 0-1 (free)
PORTLAOISE: Darragh McAuley; Brian Seale, Darren Murphy, Bertie Walsh; Chris Lynch, Rock Scully, Paul Scanlon; Tommy Mulligan, Dermot Lawlor; Eoin Phelan, Brian McCormack, Paddy Ryan; Gary Bergin, Mark Mulligan, Mick O’Connell. Subs: Darrragh Rigney for Phelan (half time), Barry Lawlor for M Mulligan (37 mins), Dean Lynch for O’Connell (37 mins), Fintie Walsh for Seale (44 mins).
KYLE: Eoin Kennedy; Mick Quinlan, Oisín Quinlan, Ger England; Eoin Quinlan, Conor Quinlan, Barry Grady; Niall O’Lone, Kevin O’Grady; Adrian Murray, Darren Gilmartin, John Paul Nevin; Croline Murphy, JJ Quinlan, Barry Grady. Subs: Gearóid Walsh for Croline Murphy (half time)