Last-gasp Brennan goal adds a gloss to Graigue-Ballycallan victory
Leinster club IHC final: Graigue-Ballycallan 2-17 Portlaoise 0-15
Graigue-Ballycallan completed the Leinster club double for Kilkenny at Nowlan Park on Saturday - turned into a treble by Ballyhale yesterday - when winning the intermediate title, but they were flattered by the winning margin.
"That was tough," said winning captain and defender Darragh Egan after his side beat Portlaoise. An added-time goal gave the scoreline a lopsided look.
"We knew what to expect from Portlaoise," Egan continued. "They are a great team with outstanding players. They are a dual club and their players have a great level of fitness.
"Thankfully, we got over the line. I don't think the scoreline was a fair reflection of things. Our late goal put daylight between us, but it was nip-and-tuck the whole way."
That goal arrived in the 62nd minute from the sweet-moving Aaron Brennan after a cross from the left wing by sub Vinnie Teehan.
For about 10 minutes before that the contest was hot, very hot. Portlaoise looked sunk when a lovely 45th-minute point from another high-level performer, Seán Ryan, shot Graigue 1-15 to 0-10 clear.
Portlaoise battled their way back into the game. Cormac Rigney started the fightback with a point, and it was carried on with scores from Cian Taylor, Tommy Fitzgerald and Colm Gleeson, after Portlaoise nearly scored a goal.
Eight minutes from the end the score was 1-15 to 0-14, and both sides were feeling the pressure. Chances were spurned at both ends during a really intense period, before Conor Murphy stole a 56th-minute point for Graigue to help them find their bearings again.
The visitors didn't give much away playing against the wind in the first half. They trailed by 0-7 to 1-8 at the break.
The goal was claimed by a man with a foot in the Laois camp, their county manager and former Kilkenny great, Eddie Brennan, in the sixth minute.
However, after the turn Graigue cut loose. Early points from Conor Murphy (free) and Aaron Brennan got them in the groove, and at one stage they were 1-13 to 0-8 clear.
Portlaoise put in a strong effort afterwards, and they were still chasing something until Brennan's late, late goal as Graigue wrapped up an All-Ireland semi-final slot against the Munster champions.
SCORERS - Graigue-Ballycallan: C Murphy 0-9 (8f), A Brennan 1-3, S Ryan 0-4, E Brennan 1-1. Portlaoise: C Rigney 0-6 (4f), T Fitzgerald 0-3; D O'Mahony, C Duggan 0-2 each, C Taylor, C Gleeson 0-1 each.
Graigue-Ballycallan - C Hoyne; D Egan, B Murphy, T Ronan; C Flynn, E Egan, K Egan; S Butler, J Roberts; B Ryan, E Brennan, C Murphy; A Brennan, S O'Dwyer, S Ryan. Subs: R Keoghan for J Roberts; W O'Connor for S O'Dwyer; V Teehan for C Murphy; T Dunphy for E Brennan.
Portlaoise - E Nealon; J Geaney, C Lynch, F Flanagan; B Mulligan, C Healy, C McEvoy; D Lynch, G Bergin; T Fitzgerald, D O'Mahony, C Rigney; K Murphy, C Taylor, C Duggan. Subs: D Feane for J Geaney; C Gleeson for K Murphy; A Bergin for G Bergin; J Phelan for D Lynch.
Ref - G McGrath (Wexford)