In a well contested but desperately low-scoring encounter, the three-in-a-row chasing Portlaoise stuttered past a valiant St Joseph's challenge at O'Moore Park this afternoon to book their place in the semi-finals.
Portlaoise 1 - 9
St Joseph's 1 - 6
Laois Shopping Centre Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final
It took until the fifth minute for the first score to arrive, Portlaoise posting to the scoreboard first with a Paul Cahillane free to set them underway. Gareth Dillon stroked over their second shortly after to see them take an early two point lead inside the opening ten minutes.
St Joseph's got off the mark with 12 minutes on the clock, Brian Daly kicking their first of the day from a free to leave just a point between the sides.
Portlaoise replied with Gareth Dillon finishing off a well-worked team move with a fisted point to restore their lead to two points at the quarter mark of the game.
A 12 minute score-less period followed as both sides struggled to gather momentum and indeed convert in the final third of the field.
Eventually, Portlaoise found the spark to raise the first green flag of the day four minutes before the break. Dillon offloaded to the advancing Ricky Maher who in-turn found Ciaran McEvoy who - at the third time of asking - rattled the St Joseph's net. His first shot was turned away by the outstretched leg of goalkeeper Aaron Cooney, his second attempt was blocked on the line by Josh Lacey before he finally found the net with his third attempt.
St Joseph's responded from the resulting kick-out the man who blocked McEvoy's second attempt at goal, Josh Lacey, appeared at the other end of the field to land a brilliant point from range and narrow the gap to four points.
The final point of the half went Portlaoise's way with Paul Cahillane converting his second free to send his side in five points ahead at the interval, 1-4 to 0-2.
St Joseph's restarted the second-half with a bang, isolating and robbing Conor Boyle of possession in the Portlaoise square to allow Michael Keogh to poke the loose ball to the back of the net and leave two points between the teams.
Portlaoise steadied the ship with a brace of frees from Ronan McEvoy, but St Joseph's came back with Adam Campion and substitute Dean Brophy narrowing the gap to two points with just under a quarter of an hour to play.
St Joseph's were knocking on the reigning champions door and drew level by the 59th minute thanks to an outrageous point by Colin Campion followed by Michael Keogh to set up a nervous finish.
In typical fashion, Portlaoise kicked three points in additional time through a brace of Cahillane frees and a belter from Bruno McCormack to send them through safely to the semi-finals.
*See Tuesday's Leinster Express Sport for full coverage
Scorers: Paul Cahillane 0-4 (frees), Ciaran McEvoy 1-0, Ronan McEvoy (frees) and Gareth Dillon 0-2 each, Bruno Mccormack 0-1.
Team: Michael Nolan; Chris Finn, David Seale, Michael Dowling; Colin Finn, Gary Saunders, Gareth Dillon; Kieran Lillis, Damon Larkin; Ronan McEvoy, Conor Boyle, Ciaran McEvoy; Paul Cahillane, Benny Carroll, Ricky Maher. Subs: Craig Rogers for Maher (43 mins), Brian Glynn for Colin Finn (46 mins), Bruno McCormack for Ronan McEvoy (49 mins), Brian Mulligan for Carroll (60 mins).
Scorers: Michael Keogh 1-1, Colin Campion, Brian Daly (free), Adam Campion, Josh Lacey and Dean Brophy 0-1 each.
Team: Aaron Cooney; Donal Ramsbottom, Tom Dunne, Aidan Brennan; Jack Lacey, James Kelly, Colin Campion; Brian Daly, Bernard Wheatley; Conor Kealy, Dylan Doyle, Mikie Dempsey; Adam Campion, Josh Lacey, Michael Keogh. Subs: Mattie Campion for Kealy (HT), Dean Brophy for Wheatley (39 mins), Peter Kealy for Josh Lacey (54 mins).
REFEREE: Brendan McCann (Portarlington)