Rogers' rocket earns high five
Portlaoise made history at O'Moore Park yesterday as they became the first team to win five titles in a row.
Leading by just a single point after a tight opening half, Portlaoise moved through the gears in the second period to claim a deserved victory.
That first half had seen Portlaoise dominate possession, but do little with it, as they struggled to find an end product for all of their good approach play. Zach Tuohy, home from Australia for a few weeks before jetting back out with the Irish International Rules squad, got the opening score as Portlaoise opened up a 0-4 to 0-1 lead by the 12th minute.
They would not score again for the rest of the half, but did have two great chances for goals.
The first fell to corner-back Brian Mulligan, whose sniping run put him clear on goal, only to see his shot superbly saved by Patrick Scully.
The Graiguecullen goalkeeper was called into action again moments later, as Portlaoise were awarded a penalty when Brian Glynn was pulled down in the square. Paul Cahillane stepped up to take it, but Scully dived to his left to keep out his effort.
All the while, Portlaoise's wide count continued to rise (they shot nine by half-time) and their wastefulness allowed Graiguecullen to chip away at their lead. Points from Ambrose Doran and Chris Hurley brought them back into the game and by half-time they trailed by just one point (0-4 to 0-3).
However, the second half saw a return to the more ruthless side of Portlaoise's game, as they put Graiguecullen under intense pressure. They outscored the Carlow border side by 0-5 to 0-1 in the opening ten minutes of play with superb scores from Cahillane, Tuohy and Barry Fitzgerald.
Graigue briefly lifted the siege when Barry Brennan coolly slotted over a free from the left wing after a foul on Ian Fleming. It failed to slow the Portlaoise momentum, though, and they put the game beyond doubt with eight minutes to go.
In a move which started in their full-back line, the ball was worked up the left wing until it found the hands of Craig Rogers. he cut in from an acute angle and hammered a shot into the roof of the net for a magnificent goal.
Graiguecullen deserved more from the game than to find themselves eight points behind and they got the goal their efforts warranted when midfielder Michael Hand got his fist to a ball which was lobbed into the Portlaoise goalmouth. It mattered little at that stage, though, as Portlaoise held on to collect another county title.
Scorers -- Portlaoise: P Cahillane 0-5 (1f), C Rogers 1-0, B Fitzgerald, Z Tuohy 0-2 each, B Glynn, C Parkinson, K Fitzpatrick 0-1 each. Graiguecullen: M Hand 1-1, C Hurley, I Fleming ('45'), B Brennan (f), D Hayden, A Doran 0-1 each
PORTLAOISE -- M Nolan; C Healy, K Fitzpatrick, B Mulligan; C Boyle, K Lillis, T Fitzgerald; A Kelly, H Coghlan; B Glynn, C Rogers, Z Tuohy; C Parkinson, B Fitzgerald, P Cahillane. Subs: M McNulty for T Fitzgerald (53), S Nerney for Kelly (53), I Fitzgerald for Rogers (56)
GRAIGUECULLEN -- P Scully; T Haughney, R Alcock, S Alsybury; I Fleming, M Timmons, C Hurley; M Hand, B Maguire; J Bolton, B Brennan, S O'Neill; L Murphy, D Hayden, A Doran. Subs: K Smith for Alcock (24), D Alsybury for Bolton (38), C Doran for Hayden (47), M Doogue for Timmons (Inj, 53).
Ref -- D Murphy (Portarlington)