Portlaoise opened the defence of their Laois SFC title with a comfortable twelve point win over The Heath on Saturday night in O'Moore Park.
There was high hopes for this game prior to throw in, with The Heath coming off the back of a deserved ACFL Division 1 title win. Portlaoise, who hadn't had the chance to field their first-choice team so far this year, might have been a little cold, but that wasn't the case.
The first half was fairly evenly contested, as both teams looked a little wary of each other, but Portlaoise dominated after the break. They scored 1-5 while The Heath failed to score in the second half, with Brian McCormack's goal finishing the game as a contest with ten mintues to go.
In truth, it was a disappointing game overall. There was never any great pace to the play of either side, and Portlaoise only looked close to their best in flashes. Perhaps that's the biggest worry for the rest of the teams in the county, as they easily saw off one of their closest rivals here without raising too much of a sweat. They are only going to improve from here.
For The Heath, they will be disappointed with their showing here, and so they should be. The worry now is that the momentum built up over the course of the league could be dissipated by this result, so they will have to lift themselves quickly to get their season back on track.
Portlaoise had opened the scoring, as patient build up play against packed Heath defence was rewarded when Gareth Dillon got himself into space and he popped the ball over the bar.
The Heath took six minutes to open their account but it was a score worth waiting for, as Chris Bergin managed to squeeze a free between the posts from way out on the right wing.
Portlaoise re-took the lead when Craig Rogers pointed a free after a foul on Ricky Maher, and Brian Mulligan then found himself in space 30 yards out before pointing. The Heath had to be wary not to let Portlaoise get too far ahead of them, and they hauled themselves back on level terms by the midpoint of the half.
Chris Bergin struck twice in the space of three minutes, the first from play when he took a pass from Ciaran Booth before pointing from play. He then curled over a free from the left wing to level the scores at 0-3 each.
Gareth Dillon restored Portlaoise's lead only for Bergin to respond for The Heath, and then it was the turn of Brian McCormack to trade scores with Bergin, as the sides were level at 0-5 each after 23 minutes.
A superb point off his left foot from Bergin after that gave The Heath the lead for the one and only time in the game, but the Portlaoise response was emphatic. Paul Cahillane jinked his way in from the right wing before unleashing an unstoppable shot to the top left corner of The Heath net.
Craig Rogers added two points after that and Portlaoise had, in the space of six minutes, opened up a four point lead. They carried it to the dressing room at half time, and lead 1-7 to 0-6.
The second half was poor fare in truth, but it was dominated by Portlaoise. Paul Cahillane opened the scoring with a good point from the left wing, but ten minutes would elapse before another score was registered.
It was Cahillane who provided it once more, as he floated over a 45, but his two scores were the only ones registered in 20 minutes of play in the second half.
The Heath needed to get something going quickly now if they wanted to rescure something from the game, but it was Portlaoise who put the result to bed after that. A misplaced pass by Alan Whelan in midfield was pounced on by Portlaoise, and within seconds they had set Brian McCormack up for a tap in.
Bruno then added a brace of points to ease Portlaoise over the line, with Scott Lawless adding the final score in injury time. After that, the only action of note were the red cards picked up by Tony Connolly and Paul Cahillane, both for second yellows, as Portlaoise got their championship campaign off to a comfortable start.
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