Tuesday 28 March 2017

Cahillane pounces late to claim four-in-a-row for Portlaoise

Portlaoise 1-8
Arles-Kilcruise 0-8
LAOIS SFC FINAL

Portlaoise were made to work hard for their fourth title in succession at this level, and 27th in total, in O'Moore Park yesterday by an Arles-Kilcruise side inspired by man of the match Ross Munnelly.

The sides were level at 0-7 apiece with three minutes remaining, before half-time sub Barry Fitzgerald pointed off his left foot and Paul Cahillane pounced for an opportunist goal to put daylight between the teams for the first time. Munnelly hit his seventh to get the difference back to three but it was too late to make a difference and Portlaoise held on.

Portlaoise captain Michael Nolan dedicated the win to the late Peter McNulty, their former colleague, who died two weeks ago. "I know you were looking down on us today," said Nolan in his acceptance speech. "This is for you 'Chief' (McNulty's nickname)."

On the back of an eight-point win over Stradbally, Portlaoise came into this game as hot favourites. They were seeking to replicate the club's golden-era team of the 1980s by completing the four-in-a-row, but they struggled to get going as Arles dropped men deep, worked hard and made a real contest of it for the second year running. Captain Chris Conway played despite a serious elbow injury but with Munnelly edging an epic duel with Cahir Healy, Arles were always in with a chance.

Portlaoise played with the wind in the opening half but squandering nine good chances and the sides were tied 0-4 each at the break.

Munnelly pushed Arles in front for the first time soon after the restart but the momentum swung in Portlaoise's favour when points from Brian McCormack, Adrian Kelly and Barry Fitzgerald had them 0-7 to 0-5 up entering the final quarter. Arles refused to lie down, though, and frees from Munnelly and Conway ensured a grandstand finish. Yet Portlaoise didn't panic and Fitzgerald held his nerve to put them back in the lead before Cahillane bravely punched to the net to finally settle the issue.

SCORERS -- Portlaoise: P Cahillane 1-1, Z Tuohy, A Kelly, B Fitzgerald 0-2 each, B McCormack 0-1. Arles-Kilcruise: R Munnelly 0-7 (0-4f), C Conway 0-1 (0-1f).

PORTLAOISE -- M Nolan; E Bland, C Healy, B Mulligan; K Lillis, H Coghlan, C Boyle; A Kelly, S Nerney; Z Tuohy, B McCormack, C Rogers; P Cahillane, C Byrne, K Fitzpatrick. Subs: B Fitzgerald for Fitzpatrick (h-t), B Glynn for Byrne (h-t), T Fitzgerald for Nerney (42).

ARLES-KILCRUISE -- J McDonald; M O'Shea, P Conway, R Stynes; JP Conway, D Carroll, C Munnelly; K Meaney, J Conway; J McLoughlin, C Conway, S Miller; F Egan, R Munnelly, D Conway. Subs: K Sheridan for F Egan (46), A McElroy for McLoughlin (49), B Conway for Miller (60).

Ref -- J Flynn (The Rock).

Irish Independent

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