(Match report from Leinster Express)
On a chilly Wednesday evening, the U15 Championship came to a close with Portlaoise taking on Na Fianna Og . The game was due to take place 5 days earlier it was postponed to this evening due to the condition of the pitch after torrential rain. Chris Conway, Laois Selector and Zach Tuohy were introduced to the crowd and shook hands with the members of both panels in front of the main stand.
A nervy start for the opening 5 minutes, It was Portlaoise who were looking more in control. Rio Lacumbre was dictating play from centre back and David Brown along side him was making some good runs forward. Portlaoise couldn’t capitalise though and it would be Na Fianna Og who would take first blood after 10 minutes of play. Midfielder and Joint captain Ennae Byrne converting a free.
This gave Na Fianna Og some energy and they were attacking at pace. However, the next three efforts by the young men in black and white fell short into goalkeeper Fergal Naughtons hands. The windy conditions taking it’s toll.
Portlaoise got off the mark in style. A wonderful individual goal by Conor O’ Callaghan who weaved and ducked his way through the Na Fianna Og defence. Soon after Darren Brennan would put the town up by three with a well taken free off the deck.
Brennan would consolidate his free with a well taken goal five minutes before the half. A high ball slipped through the last line of defence and Brennan was there to capitalise.
Portlaoise went in at half time with a six point lead. To their credit they were the better side in the first half. They would be feeling a little bit lucky with the margin they held though as Na Fianna og had plenty of patchs where they looked in dangerous in the opening 30 minutes.
Darren Brennan had a superb half from centre forward and Rio Lacumbre and David Brown were equally good in the half back line for Portlaoise. For Na Fianna Og, Joint Captain Ennae Byrne had an outstanding opening 30 and was really working his socks off to try and keep his side alive.
O’Callaghan opened the scoring in the second period. A well taken point that was kicked when he was unbalanced and surrounded by black and white jersey. Portlaoise were looking strong at this point and when Na Fianna did get close, Portlaoise had the ability to turn it over and go again. Ben O Connor was hugely important and a very strong.
Eanna Byrne grabbed one back for the amalgamated team to bring the deficit back. Shane Lawlor who was having a decent game in corner forward got off the mark shortly followed up by another Byrne point. Na Fianna really had the momentum with them at this staged.
Sub Eoghan Harris tapped over a lovely score to leave three in it before Bryne got his 4th of the evening. The gap was down to two. After his team had conceded the last 4 scores, full forward Liam Conroy finally settled the ship for Portlaoise as he fisted over to get his account up and running.
His opposite full forward Eoin Mullhall brought it back to two and that man again Ennae Byrne brought the gap back to one. Then the score of the game came from Brennan. Brennan took a short free and used a give and go on two occasions to work himself into a scoring position before slotting it over.
Brennan was certainly giving his all to keep Portlaoise ahead and had a goal chance saved by Ben Griffen. Brennan took the resulting 45 and went with the short option to teammate O’Callaghan who duly obliged and put it over.
Now deep into injury time Portlaoise held a valuable three-point lead. Na Fianna Og would have one last throw of the dice. A long ball into the square kicked by Mullhall would not avail to anything and a minute later the final whistle would be blown.
A fair performance by both teams. Na Fianna Og can will feel like it was there for them on the night and very much a missed opportunity. Portlaoise despite allowing Na Fianna og back into the game in the second half done well in the last ten minutes to reinstate a good lead and keep their head in front.
David Brown had a wonderful game for the men in green and white. When Portlaoise were on the attack he would consistently run straight through any gap with his head up. But the real stand out performer was Darren Brennan. Absolutely in a league of his own their tonight and the future looks very bright for this young man and Portlaoise.