Carlow champions Eire Og beat Portlaoise to reach Leinster final
They were inspired partly by their famous fathers and partly by the St Mullins hurlers
Portlaoise’s Ciaran McEvoy and Kieran Lillis chase down Jordan Morrissey of Eire Og. Photograph: Tom O’Hanlon/Inpho
Eire Og (Carlow) 2-11 Portlaoise (Laois) 1-6
Carlow, it seems, has another rising on its hands with both of its senior club champions through to the AIB Leinster finals.
St Mullins took care of business on the hurling front last weekend and the county’s three-in-a-row football champions Eire Og, also facing Laois opposition in the semi-finals, progressed with surprising ease.
They walked into the lion’s den at ’Moore Park to face hosts and joint record provincial title holders Portlaoise yet surged to a memorable win.
It was all a bit of a blast from the past with Eire Og, champions of Leinster five times in the 1990s, playing with a swagger again and burning off Portlaoise with a sublime second-half display.
They outscored Niall Rigney’s men by 1-6 to 0-1 over that half hour or so, holding the favourites scoreless from play.
So while Chris Blake took the plaudits for his excellent return of 1-4 - 1-3 of which came from play - it was a victory built on a platform of stout defending.
A number of sons of 1990s players were in action for Eire Og including Niall Quinlan, the offspring of club and county legend Willie Quinlan, and his three second-half points, all from frees, were significant.
Like St Mullins, few will give Eire Og a chance of making off with the silverware on December 8th though after taking out the Wexford, Kildare and now Laois champions, they’ll feel anything is possible.
They dominated Portlaoise for three quarters of their semi-final, bursting into a 1-3 to 0-1 lead after the first quarter and only really struggling for a 15-minute period in the run up to half-time when Rigney’s hosts raised a brief gallop.
Kieran Lillis hit an 18th minute goal for Portlaoise though his evening would end in frustration following a 53rd minute red card for a second yellow.
Conor Boyle also walked for Portlaoise in stoppage time for a red card though the game was well up by that stage.
With Blake on song for Eire Og, they picked off the scores throughout the second-half and Ross Dunphy put the tin hat on a cracking performance by the underdogs with their second goal on the hour.
Like Blake’s earlier goal in the opening minute, it was a high quality move that Dunphy began and finished, eventually booting in from close range after a ball across from Derek Hayden.
Blake admitted afterwards they were inspired partly by their famous fathers and partly by the progress of St Mullins.
“It’s a bit of a dream to be honest, to get through,” said Blake. “No doubt we’ll be underdogs but I can guarantee we’ll go out and give it 100 per cent.”
Eire Og: R Keating; J Lowry (0-1), M Fitzgerald, B Kavanagh; R Mahon, M Furey, P McElligott; S Gannon, E Ruth; R Dunphy (1-1), D O’Brien (0-1), C Hulton (0-1); C Blake (1-4, 0-1 free), J Morrissey, C Mullins.
Subs: N Quinlan (0-3, 0-3 frees) for Mullins (half-time), D Hayden for Hulton (51 mins), R Denieffe for O’Brien (62 mins), K Chatten for Mahon (65 mins).
Portlaoise: G Brody; G Saunders, F Flanagan, D Seale; D Holland, Chris Finn, P Downey; K Lillis (1-1), C McEvoy; B Carroll (0-1), C Boyle (0-1), B Glynn; G Dillon (0-1), B McCormack (0-2, 0-1 free), R Maher.
Subs: D Larkin for Downey (half-time), Colin Finn for Holland (43 mins), C Rogers for Maher (48 mins), R McEvoy for Flanagan (54 mins).
Referee: P Maguire (Longford).