A FIVE-STAR second-half performance at the National Hockey Stadium last Saturday saw Portrane make history as they claimed the Irish Challenge Cup – their first national success in 79 years!
Adrian Henchy's team had eked out a single-goal lead after 35 minutes of play, but really turned on the style in the latter stages to see off a battling Kilkenny, sparking celebrations which continued long into the night and the next morning.
The evenly-contested first half sprung to life after 20 minutes when Portrane's two Pakistani players combined for the opening goal.
Nasir Munir provided the classy finish after being put through by his countryman Mukhtar Ahmed.
However, the remainder of the first half didn't go according to plan as Mark Kavanagh had to leave the field with a calf strain, followed quickly by keeper Darren Neville following a collision with one of the Kilkenny forwards.
Substitute goalkeeper Ronan McGeehan, who hasn't played much for Portrane this season, was quickly into the game as he made a save from a Kilkenny short corner.
Worse was to follow for Henchy's team as Kavanagh's replacement Mark McCann went off injured along with Derek Ledwidge who had been suffering from a hamstring strain.
But gradually Portrane got on top and two Ralph Billings goals in the space of five minutes put Portrane firmly in the driving seat. The second of those was a penalty stroke, awarded when an Ahmed shot was stopped illegally on the line by a Kilkenny defender.
However, Tristan Lynas then pulled a goal back and, buoyed by that and the 10minute sin-binning of Dave Eustace, Kilkenny took the game to Portrane and McGeehan made two important saves at that stage to keep the scoreline at 3-1.
Munir calmed the north Dublin side's nerves by rifling in goal number four, and Portrane went on to add two more to their tally, with Emmet Lawlor McHugh and Ahmed Portrane players and supporters celebrate their victory over Kilkenny. on target, before Eamonn Walsh grabbed a late consolation for Kilkenny.
Captain Peter Conway was solid at the back as ever for Portrane and had good support from Peter Rowlands and Eustace, while midfielder Ahmed was the game's outstanding performer and Ledwidge did well alongside him while he was on the field.
As ever, Billings and Munir were a real handful in attack and Lawlor McHugh worked his socks off.
Reflecting on Portrane's victory, proud club chairman Percy Henchy – father of player/coach Adrian – said: 'It's our first national win since we beat Castlecomer in the All-Ireland Junior in 1932.
'We celebrated afterwards in Keelings and the Waterside Hotel, and some of them went on to Wrights, although I'm a bit long in the tooth for that.
'But with the new pitch coming in September, we hope this is the beginning of Portrane winning more trophies and moving up the leagues.'
Portrane have two games remaining in Division 4 of the Leinster League and need to beat Clontarf at ALSAA next Saturday afternoon to maintain their hopes of promotion. PORTRANE: Darren Neville (Ronan McGeehan); Anthony Carroll, Peter Conway, Peter Rowlands, Dave Eustace, Mark Kavanagh, Mukhtar Ahmed, Derek Ledwidge, Emmet Lawlor McHugh, Nasir Munir, Ralph Billings. Rotation subs: Adrian Henchy, Mark McCann, Stephen Neville, TK Fujita.