Leinster Council to decide Portlaoise-Clara venue

THE Leinster Council will meet this evening to decide on the venue for the provincial club football semi-final meeting of Portlaoise and Clara which was abandoned shortly after half-time yesterday.

Meath referee Joe Curley made the decision to bring the game to a premature halt three minutes into the second period after a fresh deluge of rain fell on O’Moore Park during the interval.

Allied to the torrents that had already fallen on the region in the previous days, the result was a waterlogged surface which made the game unplayable and even dangerous for those involved.

The ideal scenario would be to reschedule the game for the same venue Saturday but, though the date has been established, the choice of ground is more complicated, as Leinster Council secretary Michael Delaney explained.

“Normally, we would fix it for here again (in Portlaoise) on Saturday but the problem is that we have Ballyhale Shamrocks and Tullamore playing here in the club hurling final on Sunday,” he pointed out.

The pitch in Portlaoise stood up impressively to the elements yesterday but it is impossible to see any surface handling two senior fixtures in the space of 24 hours next weekend, especially if the bad weather continues.

The pity of it is that the biblical conditions halted a superb game of football. Clara led by a point when the referee called for the ball and the first period had already provided one goal, 11 points and a missed penalty.

“You can’t blame anybody, the ground staff or anyone like that,” said Portlaoise manager John Mulligan. “It was just the weather conditions. The referee did the right thing, calling it off. There will be another day and another battle now and we will just get on with it. The way things were going a fella could break a leg, that was the last thing we wanted.”

The weather was so bleak that the floodlights had been turned on prior to throw-in and Mulligan’s opposite number, Pat Flanagan, was equally supportive of the belated decision to call it off after a good deal of consultation between the referee, his other officials, both managers and Leinster Council officials.

“From the stand, the pitch probably didn’t look as bad as it was but when you were out there it was very poor,” said Flanagan. “It was even very poor in the first half and the referee told me at half-time that we would give it a go.

“Somebody may have got hurt and no-one wanted that. It was very tough to play in and all credit to the players for the effort they put in in the first half, the Portlaoise players and the Clara players.”

Clara began the game as rank outsiders against a Portlaoise side being widely tipped as one of the main favourites for, not just provincial, but national honours in the coming months. However, the Offaly champions streaked into a 1-3 to 0-2 lead but Portlaoise shrugged off that deficit, as well as a penalty miss from Paul Cahillane, to reach the break level.

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