Portlaoise travelled to Longford on Saturday night in the hope of reaching the semi final of the National Cup for the first time in the clubs history but unfortunately for the ladies they came up against an in-form home side and eventually lost out by five points.
Portlaoise Panthers 58
Longford Falcons 63
Portlaoise got off to the worst possible start in this encounter as Longford came out all guns blazing scoring twelve points without reply. Longford were causing all sorts of problems for the Portlaoise zone defence with both Mc Gowan and Stakelum hitting every opportunity they got. It took the Portlaoise girls just over five minutes to register their first points through Sinead Melia and they quickly kicked on from there closing the gap to seven points by the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter saw the away side settle down in defence and offence, shoring up their zone and taking the game inside in offence through Sharon Melia, Deirdre Tomlinson and Grainne Mc Glade. Newcomer Mc Glade’s powerful play on offence forced the home team into fouling her to stop her inside threat. This created space beyond the arc for Catherine and Maeve O’Sullivan to drain two three pointers to again chip away at the Longford lead. Longford went in at half time with a deserved four point lead.
The start of the third quarter saw Longford trouble the Portlaoise girls once more with some great inside play from their top scorers Mc Gowan and Stakelum. But again the home side resorted to fouling to stop the Portlaoise girls from threatening in offence and when the chances came from the free throw line, they clinically finished their opportunities. Portlaoise were still in with a great chance at the end of third and just needed to keep the pressure on the home side.
In true Portlaoise fashion the girls came out firing on all cylinders and took the lead for the first time with only eight minutes remaining. Great work from Sinead Melia and the O’Sullivan sisters in defence forced Longford turnovers creating fast break chances with Grainne McGlade finishing strongly at the other end. Again Longford fought back and began to take their chances in offence while also becoming more disciplined in defence, not giving the Portlaoise girls the chance to go to the line.
They began to frustrate the Portlaoise offence limiting them to outside shots which were unfortunately off the mark. Longford finished the game the stronger and reversed the league result between these sides winning by a five point margin. The girls must learn from this experience and now concentrate on retaining their Midland League title again this year.
PORTLAOISE: Eimear Conroy, Maeve O’Sullivan, Grainne Tomlinson, Deirdre Tomlinson, Sinead Melia, Sharon Melia, Grainne McGlade, Catherine O’Sullivan. Coach: Joe Keenan