PORTLAOISE moved into joint top spot in Division 1 with a four point win over fellow high-flyers Camross on Sunday evening.
In a game that never really got going, neither side appeared to have their hearts set on winning but the hosts did enough to stave off a late Camross rally to secure the points that sees them leapfrog their opponents and join Borris/Kilcotton at the top.
Camross were missing a number of key players due to travel and involvement in exams and after a tit-for-tat opening fifteen minutes Portlaoise took control and had carved out a six point lead at the break. Andy Collier and Tommy Fitzgerald both fired over an early brace of points and respective free takers Tomas Burke and Noel Costelloe found their range early on but Portlaoise were looking slightly more interested and they bossed the remainder of the half.
Costelloe gave an exhibition of unerring free-taking, spoiled only by a single blemish in the final minute of the game, and with Camross conceding a spate of fouls in the opening period, the county star made the men in black and amber pay dearly for their indiscipline.
He sent five unanswered frees over Tadgh Doran’s cross bar in quick succession and with Camross drawing blanks at the other end Portlaoise were well in control. Costelloe then showed his class from play when a fine sweeping move saw the Town man notch his first from play and when Camross forward Paul Kavanagh was booked for consistent fouling a minute before the break, Costelloe again converted.
There was time for one Camross score before the break, their first in a quarter of an hour, when Mossy Burke swung over a decent effort on the run but with Portlaoise leading by six at the break it was looking grim for the visitors, but when play recommenced they looked decidedly more adept and quickly set about eating into the home lead.
Andy Collier, playing his final game before a trip abroad showed the Camross faithful what they will be missing in absence shortly after the restart with a fine long-range score and Portlaoise’s half time lead was halved when Mossy Burke converted two frees soon after.
Portlaoise weren’t overly fazed by the Camross improvement and Tommy Fitzgerald settled his side back into the swing of things seven minutes into the second half before Costelloe and Burke both fired over a pair of frees apiece as the battling sides kept the foul count rising steadily.
With ten minutes left Ollie Dowling swatted a high ball just over the bar to again reduce the margin to three points but again just as Camross looked to be on their way back, Portlaoise snuffed out the danger with a couple of timely scores.
Noel Costelloe, Tommy Fitzgerald and a superbly worked Tony Byrne point all combined to edge the hosts back into a healthy lead and even a late Aaron Moore goal did little more than briefly raise the Camross hopes.
Portlaoise weren’t to be denied however and although missing his first free all evening moments earlier, it was fitting that it was Noel Costelloe who nicked the last score with a trademark free to round off a fine performance and hand his side the points.
SCORERS: Portlaoise: Noel Costelloe 0-13 (0-12f), Tommy Fitzgerald 0-4, Eamon Fennelly 0-1, Tony Byrne 0-1.
Camross: Tomas Burke 0-7 (1f), Aaron Moore 1-0, Andy Collier 0-3 (2f), Ollie Dowling 0-2.
PORTLAOISE: Sean Cotter, Darren Murphy, Eoin Browne, Darragh Rigney, Paul Scanlon, Joe Phelan, Derek Delaney, Tommy Fitzgerald, Dermot Costelloe, Eamon Fennelly, Noel Costelloe, Keith Murphy, Philip O’Connor, Tony Byrne, David O’Mahoney. Subs: Kevin Whelan for O’Connor (10mins).
CAMROSS: Tadgh Doran, Mick Phelan, Packie Cuddy, Martin Burke, Malvin Moloney, Darryl Dooley, Fran Hogan, Andy Collier, Lorcan Burke, Paul Kavanagh, Dean Delaney, Tomas Burke, Joe Phelan, Ollie Dowling, Conor Doran. Subs: Aaron Moore for C Doran (36mins)