Portlaoise joint-manager Mick Lillis admitted he had expected more from Wicklow champions St Patrick’s after watching his side canter to a 20 point win over the Wicklow town outfit.
Portlaoise completely bossed the game from start to finish, and as he reflected on the game afterwards, Lillis was surprised at how easilt his side had won in the end. “It’s not the game we expected, but we’re quite happy to take it. Having said that though, everybody knows how important it is to get a big stiff test because there is going to be bigger games ahead.
“All we can do is play what’s in front of us, and on the day we got a good start, and at this time of year a good start is very important and thankfully it went our way, but tough games are important to steel you for the big games.”
They are now through to the semi-finals, the stage at which they were beaten last year, after extra time, by Dublin side St Brigid’s. The pain of that defeat lingers on, but the Portlaoise management will be expecting a tougher test from Longford champions Emmett Óg Killoe in two weeks time. “It was a game we could have won, possibly should have won (against St Brigid’s), and I was surprised that they went out so easily in Dublin. Every team coming out of their own county now is going to be ambitious, they train hard and prepare well and they have the confidence of winning their own championship.
“With the rub of the green, everybody thinks they have a chance so we’ll keep going, and we have a big game now in two weeks’ time.”
Portlaoise had taken control of this game early on too, as an early blitzkrieg on the St Patrick’s goal stunned the Wicklow champions and sent Portlaoise on their way to victory. It was a ley component of their game plan, and Lillis admitted it’s an aspect of the Portlaoise game they have been working on. “We have been trying to do that (start strongly), but you had the Stradbally match as well where we were seven points down after ten minutes so we don’t always start that well.
“It is something that we have been working on, because as the seanfhocail says, ‘Tús maith, leath na hoibre’, so we were looking to start well, and thanks be to God we did, because coming here, Aughrim has a notorious name, and if you get the crowd against you after a bad start and that lifts everybody, so we really wanted to start well and we had focussed on it.”
The work rate of the Portlaoise team also overwhelmed St Patrick’s side, and Lillis paid tribute to the ability of his players in that regard. “I suppose that’s the way the game has gone, every level of the game now that’s the way teams play, they work fierce hard, and I suppose what we have is good athletes, we have a high level of athleticism. I have seen other teams in Leinster and they would be similar in that they have a high level of athleticism, so then you’re down to the football and the desire and that sort of stuff.”