Portlaoise Panthers men travelled to Old Leighlin in the clubs first ever senior Kilkenny league game but came home disappointed with not taking the points from this encounter.
The Panthers side are made up of players from the two senior midland league teams and it was clear to see that it will take some time for the team to gel but the potential was evident with some great team play throughout the game.
The home side settled well as the Portlaoise men eased themselves into the first game of the season. Baskets from big man Dan Debosz kept the sides close early on as both defences seemed to cancel each other out. Old Leighlin took a two point lead after the first quarter.
Portlaoise started the second quarter well after the introduction of Evan Maher on the point who was well assisted by Conor Dunne. Both went to work straight away on the break with Dunne finishing strongly to the board while Maher found his range from the outside. Lapses in concentration in defence allowed Old Leighlin to take back the lead at the end of the half which was disappointing after the hard work of the Panthers side.
Old Leighlin extended their lead in third quarter through their athletic Latvian twins. They caused major problems throughout for the Portlaoise defence, even after switching from zone to man-to-man on occasion. Gary Donnelly kept the Portlaoise men in contention by the end of the quarter with three great baskets, one of which closed the gap to seven on the buzzer.
The start of the fourth saw both sides trading scores once again. Both sides were also beginning to grow frustrated with refereeing decisions which were starting to take over what had been a very fair game throughout. But it was Old Leighlin who held their heads at the end as both sides had the opportunity to take the game. Late baskets by Latvian Armand sealed the win for the home side. The return leg will be another great game with Portlaoise hopeful of revenging early season defeat.
Portlaoise Panthers Team: Jamie Dooley, Conor Dunne, Evan Maher, Peter O’Sullivan, Peter Duignan, Gary Donnelly, Jack Scully, Dan Debosz, Craig Scully, David Keane.