IT finished in shooting practice for a resurgent St Vincent’s, who pulverised Portlaoise over the last 20 minutes at Parnell Park to reach the AIB Leinster club SFC final.
Hence the lopsided scoreline and, on this evidence, the Dublin champions will doubtless start as favourites on Sunday week — be it against Moorefield or Tyrrellspass, and even on enemy soil.
But yesterday’s 11-point victory, while revealing a sizeable performance leap from their two-game duel with Seneschalstown, fails to tell the full story of this see-sawing semi-final.
Portlaoise had fought back courageously from the disastrous concession of two goals inside the opening nine minutes, converted with aplomb by Mayo ‘import’ Brian Maloney and Dublin forward Tomas Quinn.
Maloney’s third-minute opener was almost entirely down to himself; taking a pass from Michael O’Shea, there appeared nothing on but after breaking the first tackle he kept on motoring before firing high and handsomely past ‘keeper Michael Nolan.
A Quinn free and a superb effort from Diarmuid Connolly were then followed by goal number two. Tiernan Diamond’s dangerous high delivery broke off Gilroy, who reacted sharply to gather and release the unmarked Quinn for a typically predatory finish.
The Laois champions trailed by seven but, faced with that appalling vista, threw the shackles off and scored the next 1-4 to draw level after 29 minutes.
Even the sending-off of county minor star Zach Tuohy after only 26 minutes couldn’t derail them and Brian Fitzgerald equalised soon after.
The opening had been created by Sean Cotter’s fine long delivery and Kevin Fitzpatrick’s lay-off. But Fitzgerald still had it all to do before he put the head down and jinked his way through the retreating home defence, culminating in a clinical angled finish.
Gilroy — given a starting brief instead of his normal super-sub role — restored a one-point cushion in injury-time. It was their first score in over 22 minutes and seemed to confirm that Vins were better advised (a) keeping Gilroy on square patrol instead of moving to the wing and (b) playing route-one to the former All-Ireland winner.
Portlaoise, though numerically challenged, must have fancied their chances at the break. Ultimately, though, having dominated possession for much of the half, they would live to regret several squandered point efforts and, more crucially, two goal chances that came to nothing. Peter McNulty’s 17th-minute rocket hit the underside of the bar while Michael Savage showed great reflexes to repel Fitzpatrick seven minutes later.
Tuohy could have no complaints with his first booking but the second was slightly more contentious: it was seemingly for a late tackle and play continued for some time before card-happy referee Derek Fahy flashed yellow, then red, after consulting with both linesmen.
Vincent’s opened the second half with a brace of pointed frees from Kevin Golden and Quinn, only for Portlaoise to rally with three points from Brian McCormack, Craig Rogers (both stemming from quick frees) and Shane McManus.
Level for the second time, and seemingly with momentum, they incredibly failed to score again. Connolly, who recovered from a couple of errant wides to finish with four sumptuous points, launched a remarkable scoring spell that yielded 1-8 without reply.
Maloney capitalised on good work by fellow Mayoman Pat Kelly to create a two-point buffer. Then it was their turn to lose a man, Eoin Brady walking for a second yellow on 47 minutes — but this merely signalled another Vins gear-change as the visitors visibly wilted.
A third goal materialised on 56 minutes after a long spell of keep-ball ended with Hugh Coughlan feeding the unmarked Gilroy to gleefully score; Connolly added his fourth point before skipper Quinn landed his most impressive free of the day, from all of 57 yards.
“If these guys believe in themselves, that’s the kind of football they have,” said delighted winning manager Mickey Whelan.
SCORERS — St Vincent’s: T Quinn 1-5 (0-4f), D Connolly 0-4, B Maloney, P Gilroy 1-1 each, K Golden (f), C Brady 0-1 each. Portlaoise: B Fitzgerald 1-3 (0-3f), Z Tuohy (’45′), S McManus, C Parkinson, B McCormack, C Rogers 0-1 each.
ST VINCENT’S — M Savage; P Conlon, E Brady, H Gill; T Doyle, G Brennan, P Kelly; H Coughlan, M O’Shea; K Golden, T Diamond, D Connolly; B Maloney, P Gilroy, T Quinn. Subs: R Fallon for Doyle (39), C Brady for Golden (46).
PORTLAOISE — M Nolan; C Healy, E Bland, A Fennelly; T Fitzgerald, B Mulligan, Z Tuohy; S McManus, S Cotter; C Parkinson, B McCormack, C Rogers; P McNulty, K Fitzpatrick, B Fitzgerald. Subs: B Glynn for McManus (45), D Reddin for McNulty (46), J Fennell for Cotter (51).
REF — D Fahy (Longford).
- Leinster SFC semi final