Portlaoise U-20’s remain in hunt for semi-final spot following a big win over Stradbally Parish Gaels in Bill Delaney Park, Stradbally, on Friday night.
Stradbally Parish Gaels 2-4
Laois U-20 Football Championship Round 2
Both these two teams suffered defeats in the opening round of the U-20 championship a couple of weeks ago, and that made this group stage meeting a do or die affair.
Portlaoise, who called back into the starting team Senior players Gary Saunders, Ronan McEvoy and Damon Larkin after their county final success, had far too much for the Stradbally Parish Gaels outfit on the night though.
Ronan McEvoy, who would do most of the damage over the course of the evening in a scintillating individual display, fired over the first three scores of the game, including two lovely points from play.
Ben Conroy added another, as the wing-back sold his man a dummy solo before placing one between the posts. Stradbally Parish Gaels got on the scoreboard through a Damien McCaul free, but Portlaoise replied in style.
McEvoy and Ross Brennan extended the Town’s advantage, before full-forward Jonathan Rafter scored the first of Portlaoise’s seven goals, as he finished low past Simon Hartnett in the Stradbally Parish Gaels net.
Powerful running from Killian Horgan was rewarded with Stradbally Parish Gaels’ second point, but Portlaoise remained on top with McEvoy, Niall Carey and Ross Brennan all raising white flags.
Damien McCaul knocked over another free to leave nine between the teams, but that would be Stradbally Parish Gaels’ last score of the half.
Jonathan Rafter used his physicality to burst through and net his second goal. Laois minor of the previous season, Kevin Swayne, tacked on a point, before McEvoy fired in the first of his goals after some fine fielding from teammate Mikey Nerney.
Niall Carey and Kevin Swayne both buried more goals into the back of the Stradbally Parish Gaels’ net before half-time, and McEvoy was unlucky not to have bagged another after he struck the post.
Portlaoise had the game sown up at this stage, but to Stradbally Parish Gaels’ credit, they put in an improved display in the second-half.
While McEvoy (free) and Rafter pointed in the opening stages of the first half for Portlaoise, Stradbally Parish Gaels’ Charlie O’Brien scored possibly one of the greatest goals ever witnessed in Bill Delaney Park.
The full-forward received a pass from Killian McGannon, and despite O’Brien being a ways out, he rifled a curling effort into the top left corner of the Portlaoise net, giving Cian Dowling Byrne no chance.
Portlaoise had taken their foot of the pedal in the second-half, but they still outplayed their opponents. Killian Horgan nailed a free for Stradbally Parish Gaels, but that was met with Portlaoise points from McEvoy (free) and two from Damon Larkin, who started wing-forward for the victorious Portlaoise Senior side last week.
Again, Charlie O’Brien hit back with another neat goal to raise the Stradbally Parish Gaels’ morale somewhat. However, McEvoy was running riot for Portaoise down the other end, and looked like a man trying to prove a point to Portlaoise Senior manager Niall Rigney.
He scored two goals and could’ve even had another at the end, but it mattered little, as Portlaoise U-20’s kept their championship hopes alive.
Scorers: Ronan McEvoy 3-7 (0-3 frees), Jonathan Rafter 2-1, Kevin Swayne and Niall Carey 1-1 each, Damon Larkin and Ross Brennan 0-2 each, Ruairi Lewis 0-1
Team: John Hannify; Eoin Carey, Cian Houlihan, Michael Dowling; Niall Carey, Gary Saunders, Ben Conroy; Andrew Swayne, Ross Brennan; Ronan McEvoy, Damon Larkin, Ruairi Lewis; Mikey Nerney, Jonathan Rafter, Kevin Swayne. Subs: Cian Dowling Byrne for Hannify (HT), Gary Whelan for E Carey (43 mins), Ogie Brown for Nerney (49 mins), Cathal McEvoy for Rafter (51 mins), Matthew Doyle for Dowling (54 mins)
STRADBALLY PARISH GAELS
Scorers: Charlie O’Brien 2-0, Damien McCaul (frees) and Killian Horgan (0-1 free) 0-2 each
Team: Simon Hartnett; Graham Devitt, Colm Clancy, Johnny Fennelly; Conor Donlon, Eamonn Delaney, Jack Langton; Killian McGannon, Colum Dunne; Darragh Carolan, Killian Horgan, Conor Goode; Ciaran O’Neill, Charlie O’Brien, Damien McCaul. Subs: Tadgh Murray for McCaul (40 mins).
REFEREE: John Murphy (Crettyard)