Portlaoise are out of the Leinster Club SFC after losing out to Kilmacud Crokes in a dramatic semi-final clash at Parnell Park today.
Kilmacud Crokes 1-17
Portlaoise were trailing by three points in the final minute of normal time when they were awarded a penalty, following a foul on Scott Lawless. Craig Rogers took on the responsibility, but his shot was superbly saved by David Nestor, and the Dublin champions managed to hang on for the win after that.
The first half was end-to-end stuff, and Kilmacud served early notice of that with a point from Calum Pearson. A minute later, Dara Mullin slipped away from Gary Saunders and raced through for a goal, and already Portlaoise looked to be in real trouble.
They almost hit back immediately when Kieran Lillis was put through on goal, but his shot was well-saved by David Nestor. A minute later though, Portlaoise had the ball in the net. Gareth Dillon cut in along the left wing and his powerful shot was saved on the line by Ross McGowan. Dillon followed up and slotted home the rebound.
The Kilmacud response was very impressive, as they rattled off four points on the trot. Callum Pearson got the first of them, and then Pat Burke, Paul Mannion and Craig Dias all followed suit to see them lead by five, 1-5 to 1-0.
Portlaoise were struggling for the fluency we are accustomed to seeing from them in attack, but a quick free from Kieran Lillis ended with Bruno McCormack, and his shot whistled over the crossbar. Shane Horan and Dara Mullin then pointed either side of a long-range Kieran Lillis point, and then Portlaoise came right back into it.
Kilmacud were using a lot of short kickouts in the first half, and they eventually made a mess of one of them. A poorly hit kickout to a surrounded Cian O'Sullivan saw him cough up possession just outside the 21 yard line. Paul Cahillane got the ball in hand and placed a shot to the bottom left corner, and Portlaoise were now within two.
Just as happened with the first goal, Kilmacud's response was impeccable. Callum Pearson kicked his third point of the half, and Pat Burke and Cian O'Connor followed suit to put them back in the driving seat. They could have had another goal then too, but Dara Mullin's shot was saved by Graham Brody, and Portlaoise scrambled the ball to safety.
Portlaoise finished out the half the stronger of the two sides, although some wayward shooting prevented them from getting closer to the Dublin champions. Ricky Maher, Paul Cahillane and Conor Boyle all pointed, with Paul Mannion responding for Kilmacud, leaving the Dublin side 1-11 to 2-5 ahead at the break.
The early stages of the second half saw both teams cancel each other out for the most part, as three points each maintained the status quo after 45 minutes.
Portlaoise had been trailing throughout the game up to this point, but finally hauled themselves onto level terms thanks to Craig Rogers. He had been introduced as a second-half sub, and he linked brilliantly with Paul Cahillane before calmly placing a shot past David Nestor. That leveled the scores at 1-14 to 3-8.
As had happened after both of Portlaoise's earlier goals, Kilmacud responded really well. They did so again, as Pat Burke and Paul Mannion pointed frees to put them back into the lead with ten minute to go.
Portlaoise needed another gear, but Kilmacud full-back Andrew McGowan got up to kick a point and leave them three ahead with time rapidly running out for the Laois champions.
The lifeline they needed came in the last minute of normal time, as Scott Lawless was fouled in the area trying to contest a high ball, and David Coldrick pointed to the spot. Craig Rogers stepped up to take it, but his effort was brilliantly saved by David Nestor, and Kilmacud survived.
A frantic final few minutes unfolded after that, but Portlaoise just couldn't find the goal they needed, and Kilmacud held on for a three point win.
Scorers: Paul Cahillane 1-3 (0-1 free), Craig Rogers, Gareth Dillon 1-0, Kieran Lillis, Conor Boyle, Brian McCormack, Ricky Maher, Brian Glynn 0-1 each.
Team: Graham Brody; Chris Finn, Gary Saunders, Frank Flanagan; Cahir Healy, David Seale, David Holland; Ciaran McEvoy, Kieran Lillis; Brian Glynn, Conor Boyle, Gareth Dillon; Paul Cahillane, Brian McCormack, Ricky Maher. Subs: Craig Rogers for Maher (37 mins), Scott Lawless for McCormack (48 mins), Ronan McEvoy for Glynn (55 mins), Colin Finn for Holland (58 mins)
Scorers: Paul Mannion 0-5 (0-2 frees), Dara Mullin 1-2, Callum Pearson, Pat Burke (0-1 free) 0-3 each, Shane Horan, Andrew McGowan, Cian O'Connor, Craig Dias 0-1 each.
Team: David Nestor; Liam Flatman, Andrew McGowan, Cian O'Sullivan; Cian O'Connor, Cillian O'Shea, Ross McGowan; Craig Dias, Conor Casey; Shane Cunningham, Paul Mannion, Shane Horan; Pat Burke, Dara Mullin, Callum Pearson. Subs: Aidan Jones for R McGowan (37 mins), Kevin Dyas for Horan (48 mins), Tom Fox for Cunningham (54 mins), Stephen Williams for Mullin (61 mins)
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)