Portlaoise Panthers got their season back on track with a dramatic one point victory over Tolka Rovers in Dublin on Saturday.
Trailing by eleven points heading into the last quarter Portlaoise turned the game on its head in the last 10 minutes. Needing to force turnovers Portlaoise engaged a full court pressure defence and outscored the Dubs by 27-15 in the final phase in front of a large home crowd.
Greg Dunne was the hero on the scoreboard hitting 18 points including three vital three-pointers. The reality though was that defence and quick passing won this game.
Tolka panicked when Portlaoise stepped up their defence with some great work from Declan Kearney, Alan O Neill and Juan Marchal especially in the front court.
Portlaoise looked destined to add to their poor start to the season after going down by 30-12 early in the second quarter. The introduction of Marchal completely changed the game though bringing his up-tempo style to the previously static offense.
Portlaoise altered their formation and slowly worked their way back into the contest and trailed by only 8 at the break, 43-35. Cian Quinn scored 18 points for Tolka in the first half. It was all he would score.
The home team improved after half time though through Sean Moore and Richard Sutton but inside scores from Dan Debosz and Ger Egan kept Portlaoise in touch. The game was delayed numerous times in the second half due to condensation. Portlaoise regrouped and quickly pegged the Dublin Northsiders back to a five point gap.
A lapse in concentration allowed Sutton and Moore in for three easy scores to push the lead to eleven. Portlaoise had worked hard to this point without much reward on the scoreboard but a change in defensive tactics managed to squeeze the life out of the Tolka offence.
Kearney, O’Sullivan, Simkus and Dunne all hit vital three pointers to level the game at 74 each. Moore could only score one of two free throws for Tolka, and Alan O’Neill scored the last four points for Portlaoise.
Portlaoise now face Ballina away this coming weekend and Blue Demons and Kilkenny at home the following two weeks. They will be confident now after tough openers against last years champs Castleisland and the Baltic Beasts, Ballon
PORTLAOISE: Greg Dunne (18), Dan Debosz (11), Peter O’Sullivan (3), Ger Egan (2), Jack Scully, Juan Marchal (6), Declan Kearney (15), Pierce Fagan (2), Alan O’Neill (11), Gedas Simkus (6), Paul Leigh. Coach: John Fennelly
SENIOR MENS NATIONAL CUP
Tolka Rovers 75