There was obvious delight on the smiling face of Portlaoise manager Tommy Conroy as he took the well deserved congratulations of supporters on the field after he had just orchestrated Portlaoise’s eighth successive Senior Football title.
Tactically, he had gotten it spot on and as a result, Portlaoise registered their largest margin of victory in any final in this unprecedented run.
While he acknowledged that his side might not have been at their best throughout the championship, he left no doubt as to what he thought of the performance in the final.
“I thought we were fantastic. I thought the players as a whole, and the forwards in the first-half in particular, showed massive commitment, massive work-rate, massive appetite for the battle. There’s no way that was a dour performance. We played from start to finish. We’ve been criticised for not doing so, for not turning up and we were going to get caught. It could always happen but our lads today deserve every credit. They were absolutely fantastic from one to twenty, or whatever came in.”
From the opening minutes, Portlaoise put Arles-Killeen under pressure in possession, something the manager said was crucial against a quality side.
“Killeen are a quality side with a number of very good players. If we gave them space, we knew what they could do so it was a case we had to do that and plus we hadn’t been doing it up to now. Portlaoise teams when they get to a final, it’s a different animal. We’ve been driving them and driving them and eventually they responded.”
The defending started in the full-forward line with Portlaoise scoring two points after Arles-Killeen went with short kick-outs.
“That was part of the plan,” explained Tommy Conroy. “Trying to get turnovers, trying to get scores from that because that’s what can hurt teams psychologically and it can end up breaking them. On a day like today, it seems that everything works out to some extent. We should have had a lot more scores in the first-half. We didn’t take them but that’s the way of the game.
“They were put under savage pressure and they were under pressure coming down the field in fairness. They couldn’t get good quality ball into the forwards and that was part of it as well as our own defenders doing an excellent job.”
The victory completed an eight-in-a-row for Portlaoise and it was the club’s 31st Senior Football title in total, 16 more than the next best team in the Roll of Honour. Tommy Conroy admitted that it can be difficult to keep the success going year on year but also noted the importance of this year’s win in its own right.
“That was probably what was slightly wrong earlier in the year when we weren’t getting performances. Maybe there was an element of it being hard to get going but when they get to a final, the boys that are there, they just keep going game after game. We didn’t speak once this year about eight in a row. That’s just statistics. It doesn’t mean anything. Unless you win now, what difference does it make what happened in the past. That’s the sort of mentality you have to have.”
The focus now turns to Leinster where Portlaoise may or may not have a first round game against the Wexford champions although the likelihood is they will have a bye given that the Wexford Championship is unlikely to be finished in time.
“I was under the impression that Wexford had decided they were out of the championship, but we haven’t been looking at that,” commented Conroy. “We haven’t considered for a second what’s happening after today. We’ll enjoy tonight. Fellas deserve a break and deserve to let their hair down, so to speak, that’s what we’ll just do for the moment.”