November 28th 1982
The Town beat Ballymun Kickhams in the Leinster Football Final.
Final score 1-8 to 0-7.
If at first you don’t succeed then try and try again. Portlaoise set another landmark by playing a second Leinster club final in one calendar year. And as forgettable as the first one was against Raheens, the second one was one of the most memorable games in the history of the club as they defeated Ballymun Kickhams of Dublin by 1-8 to 0-7 in Carlow.
At the third attempt Portlaoise claimed their third Leinster title – a record in the province – and in doing so set up a mouthwatering All-Ireland semi-final against the famed Saint Finbarrs of Cork.
This was typical end of year fare, keenly contested but with scores hard to come by on the heavy pitch. A dour first half saw Portlaoise take a slender 0-3 to 0-2 lead at the interval, with scores being provided by Tom Prendergast (0-2) and a Liam Scully free. Having been assisted by a strong breeze, however, this didn’t seem to be enough.
But a whirlwind first ten minutes of the second half, which yielded a goal and two points rocked the Dubliners and set Portlaoise on the path to victory. Joe Keenan was the hero of the hour as he latched onto a breaking ball and drove a thundering shot to the roof of the net. Though against a strong breeze this score seemed to re-energise Portlaoise and Liam Scully nearly copied Keenan but his rasping shot hit the underside of the crossbar and somehow stayed out.
Scully then slotted a free before Critchley shot a great point from the right wing to give the town a six point lead. Noel Prendergast stretched the lead still further after a pass from Keenan, and his brother Tom then shot a fine point to leave eight between the sides. This period of dominance in the third quarter effectively decided the game.
Like the good team that they were Ballymun fought back. Barney Rock, darling of Hill 16 for the Dubs, scored two and John Kearns converted a free to narrow the gap to 1-7 to 0-5. With their momentum building Rock won another scoreable free but frustration caused him to retaliate and the free kick was lost.
This was a big relief to Portlaoise and Liam Scully scored a point from play in the 21st minute to stem the rising tide. Rock responded with a 45m kick which Mick Mulhall had to tip over the crossbar. Tom Prendergast got a knock which diminished his influence on the game but by that stage the town forwards had concentrated their efforts on defending as Ballymun fought to breach the Portlaoise goal.
But they ran out of time and Portlaoise were champions of Leinster for the third time in the ten year history of the competition. And what a way to make amends for that disappointing loss to Raheens the previous April. Stars on the day were Mick Mulhall, who was soundness personified in the goals; Mick Lillis, who was the star of the half back line; Eamonn Whelan, who stole the show in midfield but great assistance from Mick Dooley; and Tom Prendergast, Pat Critchley and Joe Keenan in the forwards. Keenan’s goal was the highlight of the game and crucial to the outcome as were Prendergast’s four points. Critchley came on for the injured Billy Bohane and had a significant impact on the game. Special praise must also go to full-back Jimmy Bergin who was up against one of the big names in gaelic football, Barney Rock – he handled him in exemplary fashion and restricted him mainly to damage from place balls. Liam Scully lifted the coveted trophy as captain.
Scorers: Portlaoise: Tom Prendergast (0-4); Joe Keenan (1-0); Liam Scully (0-2); Pat Critchley and Noel Prendergast (0-1 each). Ballymun Kickhams: Barney Rock (0-4); D. Sheehan (0-2); J. Kearns (0-1).
Portlaoise: Mick Mulhall; John Bohane, Jimmy Bergin, Mark Kavanagh, Colm Browne, Mick Lillis, Bernie Conroy, Billy Bohane, Mick Dooley, Noel Prendergast, Eamonn Whelan, Tom Prendergast, Liam Scully, Joe Keenan, Gerry Browne.
Sub: Pat Critchley
Ballymun Kickhams: Brendan Carroll, Eoin Kelly, Gerry Hargan, Tom Mannion, Paul Traynor, Colm Eustace, Mick Murphy, Dermot Deasy, Gary Talbot, Adrian Walsh, Anton McCaul, John Kearns, Declan Sheehan, Barney Rock, Ray O’Farrell.
Subs: Colm O’Farrell for Gary Talbot, Gary Talbot for Ray O’Farrell.
Referee: Seamus Aldridge (Kildare).