A second-half comeback from Portlaoise saw them book their place in the final of the Laois U-21 ‘A’ championship at the expense of reigning champions St Joseph’s-Barrowhouse.
St Joseph’s-B’house 1-7
Portlaoise had been almost completely outplayed in the first half, as St Joseph’s-Barrowhouse opened up a six point lead and were on top across the field. The introduction of Martin Staunton just before half time gave them a cutting edge up front though, and he scored 2-2 in the second half to spearhead the comeback.
Portlaoise had taken an early lead, with Dean Cullen pointing a free after just two minutes. Incredibly, however, they would not score again until injury time in the first half as they struggled to make any inroads in attack. Paul Kingston levelled the game when he won a long ball and turned Darragh Duggan to fire over, with Jason Campion putting them ahead five minutes later.
They went further ahead midway through the half when a wonderful team move saw them work the ball into a goalscoring area, and despite Mikey Kehoe managing to round Graham Brody, he couldn’t keep his shot down and it flew over the crossbar.
A goal wasn’t long about coming though, and it was the impressive Kingston who provided it. Emmett Malone launched a long-ball up to him, and he won it and turned away from Darragh Duggan in one quick motion before firing low past Brody. A Jason Campion free four minutes before half time moved them six clear, but Portlaoise went to the dressing room with a pep in their step thanks to Ciaran McEvoy’s goal in injury time.
Portlaoise made two substitutions at half time and host of positional switches, and once the team bedded in they came right back into the game. Dan Dunne pointed a free for Joseph’s early in the half but three points on trot from Portlaoise had the gap down to a point by the 40th minute, and then a poor clearance by Dermot Kelly allowed Liam McGovern in for a goal.
St Joseph’s-Barrowhouse were rocked by the score, but they steadied the ship with pointed frees from Kingston and Dunne to get back on level terms, 2-4 to 1-7, with eight minutes left. They would not score again, however, as Portlaoise had a couple of goals left in them.
Martin Staunton scored them both, the first a result of a poor kickout from Dermot Kelly, and then in injury time he was on the end of a breakaway attack to fire a shot to the roof of the net and seal a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for Portlaoise.
SCORERS – Portlaoise: Martin Staunton 2-2, Liam McGovern 1-1, Ciaran McEvoy 1-0, Dean Cullen (free), Eoin Feane 0-1 each; St Joseph’s-Barrowhouse: Paul Kingston 1-2 (0-1 free), Jason Campion (frees), Dan Dunne (frees) 0-2 each, Mikey Kehoe 0-1 each
PORTLAOISE: Graham Brody; Andrew Dowling, Darragh Duggan, Colm Gleeson; Eoin Feane, David Seale, Cian Kavanagh; James Nerney, Stuart Nerney; Donal Fitzgibbon, Liam McGovern, Donnchadh Reilly; Dean Cullen, Ciaran McEvoy, David Holland. Subs: Martin Staunton for J Nerney (28 mins, blood sub to half time), Martin Staunton for Holland (half time), Philip O’Connell for Gleeson (half time), Conor Dunphy for Kavanagh (45 mins)
ST JOSEPH’S-BARROWHOUSE: Dermot Kelly; Mark George, Tommy Page, Adam Campion; Murtagh Condron, Dan Dunne, Marty Murphy; Emmett Malone, Luke Malone; James Brennan, Joey Devoy, Daniel Hickey; Mikey Kehoe, Paul Kingston, Jason Campion. Subs: Gavin Moore for L Malone (16 mins, injured), Luke Malone for Moore (half time), Donal Ramsbottom for Brennan (51 mins)
Referee: Eamon Strong (Emo)