O’Moore Park provided the backdrop for Portlaoise to kick-start their Championship 2013 campaign with a win following a hard-fought six point win over Ballinakill on Sunday afternoon.
With nine minutes on the clock, and the score standing at two points apiece, O’Moore Park came to a standstill - an eerie silence encased the grounds as physios and officials rushed to the inert shell of Portlaoise’s Cian Taylor.
The young Portlaoise half-forward laid motionless on the ground as players and spectators alike looked on in woe. Following a lengthy break in play, Taylor’s ambulance vacated the grounds to an encore of support.
Taylor’s injury obviously had a knock-on effect as Portlaoise looked distracted and struggled to immerse themselves for the remainder of the half. Despite this, they claimed the first score after the stoppage with Eoin Costello splitting the posts to put them a point ahead.
Ballinakill settled into the game and were visibly the sharper of the two. In the space of five minutes they landed 1-3, with TJ Lalor accountable for 1-1. The Ballinakill corner-forward leveled the proceedings after eleven minutes, before going on to rifle the ball into the top corner of the net three minutes later.
Portlaoise managed to interrupt the Ballinakill rhythm with a well-worked short free gifting Keith Murphy with an easy opportunity to raise the white flag. Ballinakill resumed their scoring spree with Eamon Jackman firing a brace, while Seamus Dwyer notched a point also as Ballinakill led by 1-8 to five points.
Portlaoise looked to close out the half strongly with Noel Costelloe converting two frees in as many minutes, but Eamon Jackman’s fourth point on the stroke of half time ensured a five point half time lead for Ballinakill.
Portlaoise emerged a completely different side for the second half, mentally speaking. Inside ten minutes of the restart they has amassed a huge 1-5 compared to Ballinakill’s one point to see them lead by two.
Three points from Noel Costelloe, a point apiece from Tommy Fitzgerald and Tony Byrne, and a cracking goal from substitute Darragh Cushen saw Portlaoise deservedly take the lead.
Ballinakill broke Portlaoise’s stride with three unanswered points courtesy of TJ Lalor, Eamon Jackman and Seamus Dwyer pushed Ballinakill into a narrow one point lead yet again.
With ten minutes left on the clock Portlaoise struck for their second goal of the game, this time with Keith Murphy beating Hamm in the Ballinakill goals. Portlaoise followed it up with a point apiece from Tony Byrne and Noel Costelloe to give them a four point cushion.
Portlaoise eased out the remaining minutes with Cahir Healy, Tommy Fitzgerald and Noel Costelloe (2) picking up points, while Eamon Jackman and substitute Eddie Dwyer tried in vain to salvage a result as Portlaoise ran out six point victors.
SCORERS - Portlaoise: Noel Costello 0-10 (all frees), Keith Murphy 1-1, Darragh Cushen 1-0, Tommy Fitzgerald and Tony Byrne 0-2 each, Eoin Costello, Cian Taylor and Cahir Healy 0-1 each. Ballinakill: Eamon Jackman 0-6 (0-3 frees), TJ Lalor 1-2, Seamus Dwyer 0-4, Cha Dwyer, Evan Dunne and Eddie Dwyer 0-1 each.
PORTLAOISE: Colm Cleere; Eoin Browne, Brian Mulligan, Robbie McGuinness; Darragh Duggan, Joe Phelan, Derek Delaney; Eoin Costello, Cahir Healy; Cian Taylor, Keith Murphy, Tony Byrne; Kevin Whelan, Tommy Fitzgerald, Noel Costelloe. SUBS: Darragh Cushen for Cian Taylor; Thomas Mulligan for Eoin Browne.
BALLINAKILL: Mark Hamm; Paul Simms, Eoin Delaney, Brendan O’Meara; Barry Dunne, James Walsh, Pa Duggan; Eamon Jackman, Brian O’Meara; Damien Carter, Seamus Dwyer, Evan Dunne; TJ Lalor, Michael Jackman, Cha Dwyer. SUBS: Brendan Barry for Paul Simms; Eddie Dwyer for Michael Jackman; MJ Dunphy for Evan Dunne.