A calm damp morning saw an excellent game of football in Mountrath on Saturday morning. Despite overnight rain the pitch held up well, and as normal both sides played some excellent ball. St Aengus started very strong and had Portlaoise pinned in their own half for the first ten minutes, however strong defending from Kanya Tshula, David Burke and Matteus Cocoon denied them any clear chances. Portlaoise introduced the electric Dan Usebie at this stage, and within five minutes he had produced two excellent runs, forcing fine saves from St. Aengus keeper Scott Cuddy. .
They game swung end to end now, with the Portlaoise midfield of Ben McDonald, Toju James, Cian Rafter and Ben Doyle doing Trojan work to combat the hard working home midfield. Both sides created some half chances but the crucial breakthrough came ten minutes as a result of a superb run and cross from Ben McDonald. He picked the ball up on the half way line and carried on till near the end line before delivering an inch perfect cross which was expertly dispatched by inrushing marksman T.J. Delaney. The home side threw everything into the last few minutes of the half now, forcing numerous corners and calling Conor Brown into action on a few occasions, but the score remained 0-1 at half time.
The next goal was always going to be vital, and after some end to end it came ten minutes into the half. Good play from Toju James and Jamie Toman on the right wing created some space, and Jamie found Ben Doyle on the edge of the box. Ben’s sweet left foot shot gave the keeper no chance to double the lead. As expected St Aengus came storming back, and Conor Brown rescued Portlaoise on two occasions with fine saves. Luke Macken, in his first season playing football, came of age with some vital tackles at this stage, while the experienced Ben Dwyer relieved the pressure with some fine runs from midfield.
With ten minutes to go Portlaoise sealed the victory when the trickery of Jamie Toman took him into to box before he calmly slotted home. Again the Mountrath side refused to give up, and when they were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box Kelvin Burke stepped up for one of his trade mark frees. He struck it perfectly and it seemed destined for the top corner, but a majestic reaction from Conor Brown knocked it to safety, a save right out of the top drawer again from Conor. With two minutes left James Cuddy pulled one back for St.Aengus but that was the last piece of major action.
Overall this game had everything, good football, commitment, hard but fair tackling and no shortage of skill, and as normal between these two sides played in an excellent spirit. There was no shortage of candidates for man of the match from either side but the referee gave it deservedly to Portlaoise captain on the day Matteus Cocoon.