The Longford champions provided Portlaoise with their toughest test of 2012, but ultimately didn’t have enough to cause what would have been a huge upset. They twice took the lead in the second-half, but Portlaoise showed all the hallmarks of a top side when they outscored Killoe by 0-5 to 0-1 in the last 15 minutes.
It broke the hearts of the vociferous travelling supporters who transformed O’Moore Park into a home venue for Killoe, as they completely outnumbered the home fans.
Portlaoise had done most of the early running as they dominated possession but found it difficult to turn it into scores. An early wide from Conor Boyle and a free caught under the crossbar from Barry Fitzgerald frustrated the home side, before they finally broke the deadlock when Paul Cahillane slotted over a free.
As Fitzgerald added another, Portlaoise, taking heart from their defensive performance, were worried by their lack of killer touch at theother end. Their natural game is to run the ball out from defence and while it worked up to a point, time and again they ran into trouble and wasted promising attacks.
Two goal chances went abegging when Brian Glynn and Kevin Fitzpatrick couldn’t put the finishing touches to good moves, but Glynn eventually got their third point in the 17th minute. Their three-point lead lasted all of a minute, when a Brian Mulligan fumble saw Killoe breakforward and Mark Hughes set up Denis McGoldrick for a goal.
The Portlaoise response was impressive, as they rattled off three points in as many minutes from Conor Boyle, Brian McCormack and Adrian Kelly to take control of the game again. Killoe had one last push left in them though and a brace from Ronan McGoldrick had them within one at half-time, 0-6 to 1-2.
Killoe came out strongly at the start of the second half as Mark Hughes finished off a forward burst from Michael Quinn to level the game. Sean McCormack then put Killoe ahead for the first time when he pointed a free soon after, but Portlaoise’s ability to get scores when they needed was shown in full effect when they set Brian Smith up for their only goal.
The pace of the game started to pick up now, and Killoe regained the lead in fortuitous fashion when Cahir Healy’s misplaced pass from a line ball allowed Mark Hughes to set Simon Kiernan up for a simple goal, but that was as good as it got for the Longford men.
Healy atoned for his mistake by winning a free for one point and then slotting a superb effort over the bar himself, as Portlaoise timed their late run to perfection to claim anextremely hard-fought three point win.
Scorers for Portlaoise: B Fitzgerald 0-3fs, B Smith 1-0, A Kelly, B McCormack 0-2 each, C Healy, C Boyle, B Glynn, P Cahillane (f) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Emmet Óg Killoe: S Kiernan, D McGoldrick 1-0 each, R McGoldrick 0-2, D Mimnagh, M Hughes, S McCormack (f) 0-1 each.
PORTLAOISE: M Nolan; C Healy, B Mulligan, T Fitzgerald; K Fitzpatrick, K Lillis, C Rogers; C Boyle, A Kelly; H Coghlan, B Fitzgerald, B Glynn; P Cahillane, B McCormack, B Smith.
Subs for Portlaoise: S Nerney for Boyle (56).
EMMET ÓG KILLOE: C Burns; D Bennett, P McCormack, D Keogh; S Dowd, J McCormack, M Quinn; P Thompson, S Kiernan; E Clark, R McGoldrick, D Mimnagh; D McGoldrick, M Hughes, S McCormack
Subs for Killoe: R Keogh for Thompson (55), P Hughes for D McGoldrick (56).
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath).