Dillon delivers dramatic late winner to end Portlaoise stranglehold
Stradbally 2-10 Portlaoise 1-12
A dramatic injury-time goal from Stradbally captain Jody Dillon saw his side deny Portlaoise a historic tenth Laois SFC title in a row.
Portlaoise were the hottest of favourites before the throw-in, and with time almost up they looked destined for victory until Dillon found the top corner to spark scenes of wild celebration.
Stradbally had been the last side to beat Portlaoise in a county final, way back in 2005, and they got off to a bright start with a point from Gary Comerford.
The Portlaoise response was clinical, as Craig Rogers floated a long ball into the Stradbally square and Bruno McCormack fisted to the net. Unfortunately for Portlaoise, McCormack was injured in the process, and eventually had to be replaced.
Stradbally enjoyed a strong wind advantage in the first-half, and they were soon back level with Portlaoise.
With seven minutes of injury-time added on for the treatment of McCormack, they finished the half strongly, with points from John Donohue and Padraig Fitzpatrick helping them into a 0-9 to 1-4 lead at the break.
Portlaoise emerged the stronger side after the break and they hit the first four points of the second-half to take control of the game. Paul Cahillane got two, with Brian Smyth and Gareth Dillon also on target.
The kingpins were very much getting on top, however, they were unable to take complete control.
And when it looked like they would pull away, however, Stradbally hit back, with the excellent Gary Comerford drilling a low shot to the net.
That put them back in front, but Portlaoise were quickly back on level terms thanks to Adrian Kelly.
They then seemed to get the winning scores in the closing minutes, when Stuart Nerney and Brian Mulligan hit the target to put them two ahead and on course for yet another county title as their experience looked to be paying dividends.
Stradbally, however, had other ideas and as they launched one final attack and through the massed ranks of the Portlaoise defence, managed to find enough room to set up Dillon.
He made no mistake to spark wild celebrations from the underdogs and leave Portlaoise stunned.
SCORERS - Stradbally: G Comerford 1-5 (3f), J Dillon 1-1, J Donohue 0-2, P Fitzpatrick, C Begley 0-1 each. Portlaoise: P Cahillane 0-5 (2f), B McCormack 1-0, D Seale, B Mulligan, G Dillon, B Smyth, C Rogers, S Nerney (0-1)
Portlaoise - G Brody; C Finn, D Seale, C Healy; B Mulligan, K Lillis, G Dillon; S Nerney, C Boyle; C Dunphy, B Smyth, B Glynn; P Cahillane, B McCormack, C Rogers. Subs: S Lawlor for Conor Delaney (28), T Shiel for Fitzpatrick (35), D McEvoy for Conor Delaney (48), Cormac Delaney for Shiel (60), C Kelly for Ramsbottom (60)
STRADBALLY - D Beale; C Beale, L Knowles, J Kavanagh; Cormac Delaney, E Buggie, J Donohue; D Maher, C Begley; D Murphy, G Comerford, Conor Delaney; P Fitzpatrick, J Dillon, G Ramsbottom. Subs: A Kelly for McCormack (25, inj), C McEvoy for Dunphy (51), R Maher for Kelly (55).
Ref - E Kinsella (Courtwood)