*Our county football final coverage is in association with The Baba's Barbershop
One of Portlaoise’s and Laois’ most consistent players down through the years, Kieran Lillis, received the man of the match award after Portlaoise’s county final victory over Killeshin following a fine midfield showing.
Lillis got through a heap of ball, always seemed to use it correctly, and kicked three fine points from play to help Portlaoise edge over the line and pick up a third consecutive Jack Delaney Cup.
*Kieran Lillis on the ball for Portlaoise during the Laois SFC final against Killeshin. Photo: Denis Byrne
Lillis highlighted how worried he and his teammates were near the end of the match when Killeshin were pushing for that equalizer.
“I’d say a lot of people were getting flashbacks of 2016 there. It was nearly just as well we were just winning by a point because they could’ve gone for a point.
"We were beaten in 2016, everyone knows that. We were determined not to let it happen again, and thank God it didn’t.”
Portlaoise have had their backs against the walls in a few games this season, but their refusal to lie down is remarkable, and is arguably their greatest asset.
“The majority of that team are on the road a long time, and we’re still relatively young. We came together as one group there back in 2007/08, and we’ve held it through. The experience that we’ve gained in that does benefit us no doubt.
“It showed there in the last two games especially, maybe even the St Joseph’s game too.”
You could make a case that Portlaoise have declined somewhat in recent years, but they still hold that experience and resolve that helps them get over the line every single year, with lads like Lillis crucial to that.
“We’re training very well. We’re really focusing on the few percentages. The whole championship we’ve been saying to ourselves we’re ready to explode onto the pitch, but maybe it hasn’t happened.
“I don’t think the standard if getting worse in Laois, I think teams are getting better to be honest. Like Killeshin this year, no one probably gave them a chance of getting here at the start of the year. There are seriously good teams in Laois, and Laois football in general is on the up.
“It’s hard to win those games. You have to focus in on them, and thank God we did. We did enough to get over all the games we had.”
Lillis was part of a special group of players that came through all at the same time in Portlaoise, and he knows the importance of helping the younger lads in the dressing room gel in to the group.
“2016 happened and obviously as a club we wish it didn’t happen, but maybe it’s a good thing as well because it forced us to readdress a few things. The management, between Malachy McNulty in the last two years and then Niall (Rigney) has given youth a chance.
It’s important for the development of the club and the teams going forward that we nurture the youth and give them this experience.”
*Man of the Match Kieran Lillis pictured with his family after Sunday's Laois SFC final victory.