The three Portlaoise AFC U-10 teams at the Leisure Centre over the weekend.
After the pre-Christmas Portlaoise derby served up such a cracking game, the league decided to pit them against each other again at the Leisure Centre on Saturday.
Portlaoise Utd 2
Portlaoise Athletic 2
Expectations were high and neither squad of players disappointed. The quality of football on display, for players so young, was nothing short of sensational. Athletic had the better of the early play. Jan Gdowski stamped his authority in the middle of the park with Kayden Carroll and Ben Peacham supporting out wide.
Goal chances were at a premium, however. Tom Coleman and Finn Dawson were instrumental in bringing United more into the game, while Danny Gavin and Holly Murphy also played excellently as the first half drew to a close. Indeed it took a number of last ditch tackles from Athletic's captain Ethan Kelly, Eoghan Kennedy and Alex Moore to keep United, who were motoring at this stage, from taking a lead into the break.
The second half was more of the same. Both teams strung together some excellent passages of passing and possession. Rhys Lawless and Gary Brennan were to the fore for United, while Artiom Volkov and Cian Fitzpatrick were impressing for Athletic.
The breakthrough finally came midway through the half. Gdowski worked hard to win possession in midfield, left two opponents in his wake and delivered an inch perfect throughball for Jack Phelan. Athletic's top scorer made no mistake as he slotted home past the onrushing keeper.
United were determined to get straight back into the game and put the Athletic defence under all sorts pressure. The Athletic rearguard finally cracked and it was Rocco O'Reilly who smashed an unstoppable shot to the top of the net to make it 1-1.
Not to be outdone, Phelan grabbed a second for Athletic shortly after. Kennedy's dangerous free kick was not cleared and it was Gdowski who once again found Phelan, who made no mistake.
The December fixture had finished 2-1 to Athletic and this looked likely again as time ticked down. There was one final twist, however, as United piled forward against a retreating Athletic defence. With no tackles coming in, Denis Browne was put clear through to rifle home a deserved equaliser in one of the games of the season to date.
No one of the large crowd present could argue with the 2-2 final scoreline and each and every one of the 30 players who featured deserve great credit for an outstanding game.
Portlaoise Athletic: Jack Phelan, Alex Moore, Ethan Kelly, Eoghan Kennedy, Ben Peacham, Jan Gdowski, Kayden Carroll, Jack Murtagh, Conor Bowler, Cian Fitzpatrick, Artiom Volkov, Ryan Greene, Sean Conka, Scott Lenihan, Dee Harding.
Portlaoise United: Charlie Dwyer, Conor Dunne, Danny Gavin, Denis Browne, Finn Dawson, Gary Brennan, Harry Browne, Holly Murphy, Leah Brennan, Oisín Duffin, Rhys Lawless, Rocco O'Reilly, Ross Dunne, Ryan Keane, Tom Coleman.
Killeigh came to Portlaoise last Saturday morning and held their hosts to a 2-2 draw in the Central Division of the Midlands League.
Portlaoise Town 2
Portlaoise started the game very positively with Mark O’Connor and Jack Cleland dominating the midfield exchanges and setting up attack after attack. Portlaoise almost opened the scoring after two minutes but were denied by an excellent save to deny captain Max Ryan in the opening minutes.
The ever-dangerous Max Ryan was denied again moments later when a last-ditch tackle from the Killeigh centre-half just nicked the ball as he was about to shoot.
In defence Sean Powders, David Valainis and Emily Flynn were comfortable with the Killeigh threat. Portlaoise did find the breakthrough though after seven minutes when Cormac Harney split the defence with a fantastic pass to Ben Langford. His emphatic volley gave the hosts a deserved lead.
Five minutes later they doubled that lead when, after some fine interplay between Aleks Zajackowski, Aaron McCormack and Alastair Cleland, Martin Donohue was put through. He turned inside the last defender and finished underneath the on-rushing keeper.
Portlaoise continued to dominate possession for the remainder of the half but were hit with a sucker punch right on the stroke of half time when a deflected clearance somehow found its way into the Portlaoise net.
Killeigh, buoyed by their goal, dominated the early exchanges of the second period. Excellent defending from Brian Mullins, Peter Emmanuel and Ben Malone keeping the score at 2 -1. Just when Portlaoise started to take control of proceedings again, they were hit with a second sucker-punch. A speculative ball into the penalty area was bundled into the Portlaoise goal to level up proceedings.
This spurred the hosts into life, and they dominated the remainder of the game. However, despite being camped in the Killeigh half they could not find a winner. A frustrating day for the hosts was summed up in injury time when Mark O’Connor’s fantastic header struck the underside of the crossbar.
Credit must go to both teams who ensured that all 31 players played their part in an excellent and entertaining sporting contest. All 16 Portlaoise Town players can be proud of how far they’ve progressed in such a short space of time.
Portlaoise Town: Aaron McCormack, Alastair Cleland, Aleksander Zajaczkowski, Ben Langford, Ben Malone, Brian Mullins, Cormac Harney, David Valainis, Emily Flynn, Glen Johnson, Jack Cleland, Mark O'Connor, Martin Donoghue, Max Ryan, Peter Emmanuel, Sean Powder