Action from the Laois SFC Round 2 clash between Clough-Ballacolla and Abbeyleix at O'Moore Park . Photo: Alf Harvey
Portlaoise saw off a strong challenge from a well-drilled Courtwood team to advance to the quarter-finals of the Laois SFC.
Laois Shopping Centre Senior Football Championship Round 2
Niall Rigney’s side were made to battle all the way here, as a determined Courtwood display made this game a lot closer than many were expecting.
Portlaoise opened the scoring in the fifth minute thanks to a free from Jason Maher, but Courtwood had come to have a go at the reigning champions, and they soon drew level. Matthew Kelly hit the equaliser from 25 yards out, moments after a last-gap challenge from Barry Donnelly had denied Bruno McCormack a certain goal at the other end.
Maher’s second free got Portlaoise back in the lead, and while they would hold the lead all the way to half-time, they were never particularly comfortable.
Bruno opened his account in the 11th minute with a neat display of footwork which defied his advancing years. Damon Larkin then rounded off a nice move with a point before he linked up well with McCormack to allow the veteran register his second point.
Ronan McEvoy then pushed them into a five point lead and we all expected Portlaoise to canter off over the horizon after that, but Courtwood dug in.
Danny Luttrell floated over a nice free from distance, and then Alan Kinsella showed good composure to curl over a point under pressure from the Portlaoise defence. The gap down to three, Portlaoise were spurred into action and it was Paul Cahillane who provided the scores.
He slotted over a free before David Seale set him up for a point from play as the lead went back out to five, but once again Courtwood showed no signs of panic.
They won a 45 which Luttrell calmly sent sailing between the posts, and less than a minute later Luke Doyle was on hand to score a lovely point, and they were back within three with normal time elapsed.
Portlaoise had one last score in the before Des Cooney sounded the half-time whistle, as Bruno got his third of the half to send his side to the dressing rooms 0-9 to 0-5 to the good.
Facing into the elements in the second half, things were always going to be a little tougher for Courtwood, and so it proved. Danny Luttrell’s early free tailed off on the breeze, and then Portlaoise started to build on their lead.
Gareth Dillon got their first score of the half from a free, and then Kieran Lillis landed a fine effort from the left wing.
Courtwood were struggling to get through at the other end, and Portlaoise went eight clear with points from Paul Cahillane and Damon Larkin.
Once again it looked like Portlaoise were going to cruise home from there, but again Courtwood came back. Luke Doyle pointed a free from the right wing before Niall Dunne found himself in space on the edge of the area, and his brilliant shot nestled into the bottom corner.
Portlaoise were under the cosh now, and Colm Wilson then got up to point from the left wing and leave just one score between the teams, 1-7 to 0-13.
The dream was very much alive for Courtwood now, but they needed to follow up with the next score and it was not forthcoming. Instead, the next score all but settled the game in Portlaoise’s favour.
Ronan McEvoy’s brilliant strike from the right side of the penalty area flew into the far bottom corner, and Portlaoise were now in a commanding position.
That was too commanding a position for Courtwood to wrestle from them, as there were no more scores before the end, and Portlaoise ran out six point winners.
Scorers: Ronan McEvoy 1-1, Brian 'Bruno' McCormack 0-3, Paul Cahillane 0-3 (0-1 free), Jason Maher 0-2 (0-2 frees), Damon Larkin 0-2, Kieran Lillis 0-1, Gareth Dillon 0-1
Team: Michael Nolan; Gary Saunders, Frank Flanagan, David Seale; Conor Boyle, Paddy Downey, Colin Finn; Ciaran McEvoy, Kieran Lillis; Ronan McEvoy, Damon Larkin, Gareth Dillon; Paul Cahillane, Brian 'Bruno' McCormack, Jason Maher. Subs: Craig Rogers for Maher (42 mins), Ricky Maher for McCormack (59 mins).
Scorers: Niall Dunne 1-0, Danny Luttrell 0-2 (0-1 free, 0-1 45), Matthew Kelly 0-1, Alan Kinsella 0-1, Luke Doyle 0-2 (0-1 free), Colm Wilson 0-1.
Team: Matthew Byron; Barry Donnelly, Mark O'Halloran, Colm Wilson; Sean O'Flynn, Rob Flynn, Seth Mooney Burns; Conor Hogan, Niall Dunne; Danny Luttrell, Niall Donoher, Cian Doyle; Alan Kinsella, Luke Doyle, Matthew Kelly. Subs: Andrew Flynn for Mooney Burns (39 mins), Rory Doyle for Donoher (50 mins), Paddy Wilson for Luttrell (55 mins)
Referee: Des Cooney (St Joseph’s)