But, in the end, it was all too easy for Portlaoise against the Meath champions who were playing their third game in a week.
Though they fell 12 points short, Seneschalstown still merited a standing ovation from the sizeable number of supporters who followed them to O’Moore Park after the defeat of Wolfe Tones in the county final replay on Thursday night.
Three days was hardly sufficient time to prepare for any match, let alone a Leinster quarter-final against a Portlaoise side that is already being talked about as a possible provincial, and even national, contender.
“Last Sunday we went to extra-time and then we had the replay on Thursday evening as well,” said Seneschalstown manager Damien Sheridan. “You wouldn’t ask professionals to do that. “I’m a little bit frustrated that the lads didn’t look as good out there as they are. I would~like to play Portlaoise on a more level playing field but fair play to them. They are a very good football team.”
Even history was against the visitors. Laois and Meath sides had, surprisingly, only met seven times in this competition before yesterday’s quarter-final with the O’Moore county claiming four victories to Meath’s one, two ending in a draw.
It was apparent that such a trend was likely to continue even if the suspicion lingers that the home side is capable of hitting even greater heights in the weeks and maybe months to come. The first-half was all about goal chances: those taken and those squandered. By and large, it was Portlaoise who achieved the former and Senechalstown who suffered with the latter. The home side carved out three goal opportunities in the first period and came away with 2-1 for their troubles. Seneschalstown manoeuvred their way into space inside the parallelogram four times in that same spell and only managed two points.
“We needed everything to go our own way,” said Sheridan, “not to miss four goals opportunities in the first-half. You could see the tiredness in the legs even in the first-half. The sharpness wasn’t there.”
Portlaoise had the ball in the net twice within the opening 13 minutes. Wing-forward Brian Glynn was the first to oblige, finishing off a lovely passing move from the half-back line with a shot high to the net that gave goalkeeper David Lyons little chance.
The second was equally good. Brian McCormack floated a ball from midfield into full-forward Barry Fitzgerald who batted the leather into the path of Paul Cahillane for a sublime finish.
Portlaoise’s defence had already been cut open – and escaped – once by that stage and they had to suffer further scares at regular intervals in a half when the Laois champions never got to grips with the visitors’ high balls.
Seneschalstown dominated possession and territory but, with Joe Sheridan failing to convert two decent point chances in the first quarter, they weren’t doing themselves any favours. As with many a club side, Seneschalstown dithered about where to play their best man – the aforementioned Sheridan, one of five on the first 15 – and Joe duly divided his duties between full-forward line and midfield.
It was to make little difference.
By half-time, Portlaoise were seven points to the good – at 2-6 to 0-5 – and Seneschalstown were already showing signs of fatigue with manager Damien Sheridan having made three substitutions.
That suspicion was confirmed by a second-half in which Portlaoise did as they pleased, when they pleased. Seneschalstown were limited to just a goal and a point while Portlaoise rattled off another 1-6.
“I’m very happy with that performance,” said Portlaoise manager John Mulligan.
“A score of 3-12 is very good for winter football and I’m pleased with the number of players who scored and with the fact that we took our goal chances.”
Next up are Clara, Offaly’s representatives. That too will take place in Portlaoise, as will the final if Mulligan’s boys get there. Yes indeed, its shaping up into a mighty fine winter for Portlaoise.
Scorers for Portlaoise: P Cahillane 2-1 (0-1f), B Glynn 1-2, B Fitzgerald 0-5f, P McNulty 0-2, A Fennelly 0-1, K Lillis 0-1.
Scorers for Seneschalstown: S Sheridan 1-0, B Sheridan 0-2 (1f), S Clarke 0-2 (1f), J Sheridan 0-1, S Finnegan 0-1.
PORTLAOISE: M Nolan; E Bland, K Fitzpatrick, M McNulty; B Mulligan, C Healy, K Lillis; A Kelly, B McCormack; C Rogers, A Fennelly, B Glynn; P Cahillane, B Fitzgerald, P McNulty.
Subs: C Byrne for Kelly (46), B Smith for Fitzgerald (51), J Fennell for M McNulty (57), D Reddin for Fennelly (57).
SENESCHALSTOWN: D Lyons; P Carey, A Collins, G Sheridan; M Carey, J Cowley, S Sheridan; R Ruddy, D Sheridan; S Finnegan, C Macken, G Conlon; S Clarke, J Sheridan, B Sheridan.
Subs: J Byrne for P Carey (16), B Clarke for Macken (22), C Duffy For Ruddy (33), A Gleeson for S Clarke (39), T Ledwidge for Finnegan (58).
Referee: T Quigley (Dublin).