Port­laoise left to rue late penalty miss

The great­est drama in this 37-point game was saved nearly un­til the fi­nal cur­tain

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - GaelicGames - Seán Mo­ran at Par­nell Park

Kil­macud Crokes 1-17 Port­laoise 3-8

Port­laoise play­ers must have been shak­ing their heads after yes­ter­day’s AIB Le­in­ster foot­ball semi-fi­nal. They never led and in truth at times, the Dublin cham­pi­ons with their pace and move­ment looked on the verge of – ap­pro­pri­ately enough – run­ning away with it but their Laois op­po­nents showed great com­po­sure and a range of dif­fer­ent weaponry to take this match to the brink.

Be­fore a mea­gre crowd of about 1,200 it was a great con­test with both teams go­ing all out and putting up an im­pres­sive 37-point game be­tween them but the great­est drama was saved nearly un­til the fi­nal cur­tain. In in­jury time, with Crokes three ahead, re­place­ment Scott Law­less was fouled as a high ball dropped in on the Crokes’ goal­mouth. Goal­keeper David Nestor gath­ered safely but ref­eree David Coldrick awarded the penalty.

Craig Rogers, an­other re­place­ment, who had fin­ished con­fi­dently for Port­laoise’s third goal, took the kick and hit it to the left of Nestor but the ’keeper pulled off a great save at the cost of 45. The chance was gone and just as three years pre­vi­ously when a sim­ple free would have drawn with Bally­bo­den, they ended up let­ting Dublin cham­pi­ons off the hook.

Nestor – all of 33 – was self-dep­re­cat­ing in his anal­y­sis of the save.

“I sup­pose at my age go­ing left isn’t re­ally an op­tion so that I went right early. That was lucky but look, it would have been a drawn game and we would have put the ball back on the tee and gone again; there was still a minute or two left. You don’t de­vi­ate from the process.”

Had Port­laoise forced ex­tra time it would have been slightly in­con­gru­ous as they never led the match and had been on even terms for just a cou­ple of min­utes.

The win­ners’ Dublin duo of Paul Man­nion and Cian O’Sul­li­van had sub­dued matches. O’Sul­li­van in par­tic­u­lar looked dis­tracted and turned over pos­ses­sion a few times, in­clud­ing in the lead-up to Paul Cahillane’s goal, whereas Man­nion was well shad­owed by David Seale - very much per­form­ing in his task of restrict­ing the pro­lific All Star.

Crokes had con­ceded just one goal in the cham­pi­onship to date, in April, but this time out, they were sur­pris­ingly por­ous. Had Nestor not stopped the penalty – and he had ear­lier de­nied Kieran Lil­lis a goal – his team would have shipped four in an hour.

Port­laoise play or­tho­dox foot­ball and had a de­pend­able plat­form at cen­tre­field where Ciarán McEvoy was ex­cel­lent, part­ner­ing Lil­lis. They also picked out ex­cel­lent foot passes when they moved for­ward.

The pres­sure came on im­me­di­ately, as within three min­utes Dara Mullin skinned the de­fence when cut­ting right through the mid­dle be­fore dum­my­ing his way past goal­keeper Gra­ham Brody for the open­ing goal.

Re­ply

Gareth Dil­lon replied quickly for Port­laoise, fol­low­ing up on his own shot be­ing blocked, in the fifth minute but as would be the re­cur­rent trend Kil­macud replied with a scor­ing blast, on this oc­ca­sion the lively Cal­lum Pear­son, Pat Burke, Man­nion after a fine counter-at­tack by Cian O’Con­nor and Craig Dias on the end of an­other well-built move from the back all com­bin­ing to stretch the lead to five in as many min­utes. The mar­gin still stood at five when Cahillane ex­ploited de­fen­sive un­cer­tainty to swerve the ball into the net and re­duce the mar­gin to 1-7 to 2-2.

It was suf­fi­cient credit to keep the Laois side afloat even though when Brody came up to kick a cou­ple of 45s both went wide but in mit­i­ga­tion thwarted Mullin, who was through on goal again in the 24th minute. Crokes’s Shane Ho­ran hit the post and Seale robbed the ball off Man­nion.

The half-time lead of three, 1-11 to 2-5, looked thin for Crokes. Rogers’s 47th-minute goal lev­elled the match at 1-14 to 3-8 but they wouldn’t score again whereas frees from Burke and Man­nion, plus a ter­rific score after a run from the back by An­drew McGowan built the win­ning mar­gin.

Man­ager Jonny Magee was re­lieved but con­tent: “This is what Le­in­ster foot­ball is all about – it’s about be­ing tested.The lads stood up to­day.”

They won’t be the ro­man­tic pick in the fi­nal when for the first time a Long­ford club will con­test the ti­tle and, as es­ti­mated by broad­caster Oisín Lan­gan, they will be a club with a mem­ber­ship 10 times the size of their op­po­nents’ pop­u­la­tion.

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