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Rogers sets stage for Portlaoise to go extra yard

Louth champions St Patricks came within minutes of pulling off a massive upset after fighting back from a five-point half-time deficit to force extra-time at O'Moore Park yesterday.

When Karl White buried a low shot past Portlaoise 'keeper Mickey Nolan three minutes into the first half of additional time, the strongly fancied Laois men were on the verge of a shock exit, until a Craig Rogers penalty set the stage for a dramatic late home victory.

The last time these two sides met was in 2007 when Portlaoise disposed of St Patricks at the same stage in Dundalk, and in the opening half of this thrilling tie it looked like the Louth men were heading for a similar fate.

A Rogers goal 15 minutes in gave Portlaoise the breathing space their quick passing game deserved, and with four frees from the right boot of Barry Fitzgerald, the hosts looked to be well on their way.

Some of the decisions leading to those Fitzgerald frees provoked the ire of both the St Patricks players and their large band of travelling fans.

But it was their own wastefulness in front of the posts that contributed most to their half-time deficit, with Karl White and Paddy Keenan guilty of some poor shooting on the stroke of half-time.

That problem dissipated somewhat after the restart and with the extremely impressive Ray Finnegan chipping in with some vital scores, St Patricks began to make some clear inroads.

Portlaoise looked rattled, and the dismissal of substitute Brian Mulligan for a second bookable offence with 12 minutes left only added to those nerves.

St Patricks took full advantage and three points on the bounce from Finnegan, Eoin O'Connor and 2010 All Star midfielder Paddy Keenan levelled the tie.

Barry Fitzgerald looked to have nicked it for Portlaoise with a neat score against the run of play, but Keenan forced the tie into extra-time with a cool free deep in stoppage time.

With Portlaoise now restored to their full complement as is procedure in the event of extra-time, they would have been more confident on the restart.

But a breakaway goal from White rocked the hosts before Rogers won a penalty near the end of the first half and took it himself, placing a neat spot-kick into the bottom left-hand corner to restore parity in the game yet again.

The Louth men retook the lead three minutes into the second period again through the unflappable Keenan.

But that was to be their last score and Portlaoise stole it with two late points.

Laois county star Cahir Healy floated over the equaliser before a last-minute Conor Boyle surge forward left him in space and he made no mistake to hand Portlaoise the narrowest of wins.

scorers -- Portlaoise: C Rogers 2-0 (1-0pen), B Fitzgerald 0-5 (4f), C Boyle 0-2, C Healy, T Fitzgerald, A Kelly, H Coughlan, P Cahillane (1f) 0-1 each. St Patricks: P Keenan 0-7 (6f), K White 1-0, R Finnegan 0-3, E Carroll 0-2, E O'Connor, D O'Connor 0-1 each.

Portlaoise -- M Nolan; C Healy, K Fitzpatrick, M McNulty; D Seale, T Fitzgerald, C Boyle; K Lillis, A Kelly; B Glynn, B McCormack, H Coughlan; P Cahillane, B Fitzgerald, C Rogers. Subs: B Mulligan for McNulty (30), B Gaynor for Seale (48), C Parkinson for McCormack (51),B Smith for Lillis (54), I Fitzgerald for Cahillane (77), B McCormack for Kelly (77).

St Patricks -- R Arthur; J O'Hare, D Finnegan, D O'Hanlon; R Finnegan, E Breen, O Zamboglou; C Goss, P Keenan; P Mallon, S Hynes, A McCann; E Carroll, E O'Connor, D O'Connor. Subs: K White for McCann (19), E White for Hynes (57), D McCartain for Breen (73).

Ref -- D Fahy (Longford).

Irish Independent