Rathnew had to pick themselves up from the disappointment of last Sunday’s Wicklow county final defeat by divisional side St Mary’s, who were ineligible to participate in theprovincial competition.
But against all the odds the side managed by new Garden County manager Harry Murphy, who included county midfielder James Stafford, who had the red card he received in last Sunday’s county final rescinded, made all the early running and were full value for their 0-8 to 0-4 lead at half-time.
On the restart, however, Portlaoise were a transformed side with their superior pace, fitness and teamwork enabling them to gain a firm foothold on the proceedings. And once wing-back Brian Gaynor surged through to clinically finish off a defence-splitting move, and put his side 1-8 to 0-9 in front on 38 minutes, the Town always looked destined to clinch a semi-final clash with Dublin’s St Brigid’s on Sunday week.
“There were lots of good things about our play in the first half,” said Portlaoise manager Mark Kavanagh.
“But we lost out in the middle third of the field and also gave away too many frees in the full-back line. Leighton Glynn did very well in the first 15 minutes, but the second half was a different ball game and we started to win dirty ball around the middle of the field.’’
Despite the result, Harry Murphy was full of praise for his charges. “After the county final we didn’t know what way the lads would react,” he said.
“But we were very pleased with the first half performance, it was as good as we’ve played in a while. We really opened them up and it looked good at half-time. But we lost Stephen Byrne [half-time] and Stephen Kavanagh [50 minutes] at a bad time. The goal turned the game for them.”
Rathnew gave themselves some hope with a brace of points to reduce the deficit to 0-12 to 1-13 on 57 minutes, but Portlaoise skipper Rogers closed the scoring a minute later.
Scorers for Portlaoise: C Rogers (2fs), P Cahillane (3fs) 0-4 each, C Parkinson 0-3, B Gaynor 1-0, B McCormack 0-2, B Smith 0-1.
Scorers for Rathnew: L Glynn 0-6 (4fs), T Gill 0-4 (3fs), N Mernagh 0-2.
PORTLAOISE: M Nolan; C Healy, K Fitzpatrick, B Mulligan; B Gaynor, T Fitzgerald, C Boyle; B Smith, A Kelly; B Glynn, B McCormack, H Coghlan; P Cahillane, C Parkinson, C Rogers.
Subs: I Fitzgerald for Parkinson (55), E Whelan for Kelly (58).
RATHNEW: J Hollingsworth; A Clarke, D Power, P Merrigan; S Byrne, S Canavan, D Franey; J Stafford, N Mernagh; S Kavanagh, T Gill, E Glynn; P Ellis, M Doyle, L Glynn.
Subs: E Doyle for Byrne (ht), B Mernagh for Kavanagh (49), R O’Brien for Franey (50), C Healy for Merrigan (50).
Referee: S Doyle (Wexford).