Portlaoise Panthers U-14 boys got their Kilkenny league season off to a great start last Tuesday night with a hard fought win over a strong Old Leighlin side.
Every game this year will be tough in the league as this Panthers side have the majority of its squad eligible to play at the grade for a further year.
The game got off to a great start with Dylan Phelan controlling the offence from the point position and pulled the strings to set up Trevor Swayne inside while also creating his own scores from three excellent penetrating drives.
Portlaoise were under pressure on the defensive end as Old Leighlin looked to use their height advantage to gain an advantage but Niall Carey and Trevor Swayne stood strong under the boards. Darren Moore then got himself on the scoresheet with excellent driving to the hoop, giving his side an early five point lead going into the second quarter.
The second quarter was a more even affair with Old Leighlin finally winning the quarter by a point to close the gap. Despite their inferior stature the Panthers boys played with confidence and as a team in defence and did a great job in keeping out the threat of Old Leighlins main man Tadhg Roche.
The home sides confidence was evident on the offensive end also as Gary Morrissey took control and work through the options of the plays and took it on himself causing the defence into fouling. He scored four points in a row to keep his side out in front while assisting in scores for both James Phelan and Rian O’Connell. Portlaoise took a four point lead in at the break.
Old Leighlin were first to get going again at the start of the third and it looked like the momentum was on their side. It was big man Rian O’Connell and point guard Dylan Phelan who again combined to keep the scores rolling in for the home side while Martin Murray, Jack Coss and Thomas Maher contributed greatly on keeping Old Leighlin to a low total in the quarter.
Portlaoise were beginning to find it hard to finish off in offence and the reintroduction of Gary Morrissey gave them a new lease of life. Portlaoise were in a great position going into the last quarter with coach Peter O’Sullivan allowed to choose his players as he wishes in the final seven minutes.
Darren Moore stepped up in this quarter and what he lacks in size he makes up in determination as he sliced through the Old Leighlin defence time and again bringing his game tally to ten points.
James Phelan, Stephen Mc Cabe and Trevor Swayne all got their name on the scoresheet again in this quarter while their defence was even better as they held their opponents to just four points in the quarter. Portlaoise will be happy with this display as all thirteen players contributed a lot to another big win.
Portlaoise Panthers Team: Stephen McCabe, Liam Keenan, Trevor Swayne, Thomas Maher, Jack Coss, Ben O’Reilly, Darren Moore, Gary Morrissey, Dylan Phelan, Rian O’Connell, Niall Carey, James Phelan, Martin Murray. Coach: Peter O’Sullivan.