I only started playing with Portlaoise at U12 level and my earliest memory of that grade is losing to St Michaels in the county final. Two good U14 memories were John Mulligan fighting with Gerry Kavanagh over in Timahoe on the end-line over a disputed point when we played Stradbally. I’m pretty sure John was umpire and Gerry took exception to a decision he made. Another early memory is Philip Scully not touching the ball when we played Stradbally in the league over on the old pitch in the woods because Ger Byrne told him he’d kill him if he did!
Early influences were my father and Brian Delaney who took us over at U14 level and won nearly everything until U21.
Didn’t have many because Portlaoise were awful during the ‘90s when I started having an interest in football. Don’t remember seeing him play but I was always very proud of the regard my uncle Mick Dooley was held in within the club.
Highlight of my club career is definitely winning the Leinster club title as captain. I remember thinking it would be a great idea to get the Doc Fitz to sing the “Portlaoise Queen” if we won, and he did. It was a really special moment. Bruno carried on that tradition when the town won it again in ‘09. I also won Leinster club player of the year and Laois player of the year too.
Two matches stand out. First one was the minor final we lost to Ballylinan in ‘96. They were good back then and were amalgamated with Arles Kilcruise. I was captain that day and took the loss very badly. It was the only time during my career I cried after a game. I remember Billy Bohane putting his arm around me on the pitch during the trophy presentation saying ‘Don’t worry Wooly, you’ll win a lot more that they will’ … and he was right! Losing the All Ireland club final was heartbreaking. Again because I was captain and should have led the team but played badly. I kicked an easy chance into the goalkeeper’s hands in the last ten minutes, one I would get in my sleep. We lost by a point. I still think about that game a lot. I blame myself for the loss and always will. I think suspending me from all Portlaoise teams was a really petty decision. The suspension punished the Portlaoise intermediate team, who I was going to play for, more than me, and surely didn’t serve the best interests of the club.
I think, in hindsight, going travelling after we won the Leinster in ‘04 is a regret. I trained when I was away and had three more weeks when I returned home before the semi-final so in theory it sounded fine. The problem was when I got back I tweaked my hamstring and couldn’t do the two hard week’s training I needed. It definitely affected my performance in the semi-final and the knock-on effect was a lack of confidence going into the final. Of all the stupid decisions I made during my football career that’s up there as the worst.
Ian Fitzgearld – he lost form towards the end of his career but at underage level he was unplayable. When we joined the senior team myself, Ian and Tommy Conroy led the team to a county title in ‘99 against all the odds, beating Stradbally, who were going for three in a row, in the semi-final. We also ended a ‘drought’ of 8 years without a county title. Myself and Ian ran a-muck again in the final ‘02 beating heavy favourites St Josephs. Back then Ian was the man and I was his sidekick. Those two finals mean most to me. They really put the club back on track after a poor decade of results. I think that’s often forgotten. We started winning finals easily after that.
Peter McNulty – Peter was fearless on the field. He was outstanding during our run to the All-Ireland final in ‘05 scoring some breath-taking scores off the outside of his boot from the sideline. He became a regular on the team that year and his confidence and personality really energised myself and the team coming off a few bad years. He is an incredible loss to the club on and off the field.
No explanation needed
Had a few good battles with Joe Higgins. Though he was an outstanding player and, unusual enough for corner backs I marked in Laois, he played the game fairly with no nonsense.