Leinster Final spot at stake as Killoe face powerful Portlaoise

Killoe Young Emmets have made a major impact to reach the Leinster Club Senior Football Championship semi-final and while they were most impressive in beating Navan O’Mahony’s by the wide margin of 11 points in the previous round, Tommy McCormack’s charges are now facing a very difficult task against a powerful Portlaoise side backboned by several inter-county players.

History will be made at O’Moore Park on Sunday next if Killoe happen to spring a shock in their quest to become the first Longford club to contest the Leinster senior club final and they will be hoping that key defender Shane Dowd recovers from the injury that forced him to retire in the early stages of the second half in the quarter-final clash against the Meath champions.

Navan O’Mahony’s were blown away at Pearse Park and St. Anne’s of Wexford also crashed out at the same venue a couple of weeks earlier as Young Emmets got their provincial campaign off to a flying start. But Killoe no longer have the comfort of home advantage and must travel to Portlaoise to take on a vastly experienced outfit who have won the Leinster club title a total of seven times.

Make no mistake about it, this is a big step up in class for the Longford champions who find themselves in bonus territory and all the pressure will be on the red-hot favourites Portlaoise (generally priced at around 1/5 with the bookmakers) in their bid to regain the provincial crown they last captured in December 2009 when beating Westmeath opponents Garrycastle 1-9 to 1-5 in the final.

It is interesting to note that they slammed Senchalstown (Meath) 3-12 to 1-6 in the quarter-final of that successful campaign and also hammered Mattock Rogers (Louth) 2-21 to 0-2 in the first round back then which illustrates the great strength of the Portlaoise squad.

And the all conquering Laois champions (recent winners of the county title for the sixth year in a row) showed no mercy whatsoever against St. Patrick’s of Wicklow in the recent Leinster quarter-final game at Aughrim, recording a landslide 3-15 to 0-4 victory after leading by 2-6 to 0-0 at half-time.

Portlaoise obviously have a fierce desire to win the provincial club championship yet again, after their hopes were dashed by the Dublin champions for the past couple of seasons, and are going all out to make amends for the bitter disappointment of narrow defeats against Kilmacud Crokes (2-7 to 2-4 in the 2010 quarter-final) and St. Brigid’s (2-16 to 1-15 after extra-time in the 2011 semi-final).

Defenders Conor Boyle, Cahir Healy and Kieran Lillis were all in action for the Laois team who lost by a point against Longford in the first round of the 2012 Leinster Senior Football Championship and talented forward Paul Cahillane is also a regular member of the county squad.

Another prominent Portlaoise attacker Craig Rogers has lined-out with Laois in recent years and with former county players Kevin Fitzpatrick and Brian McCormack also members of this exceptional club team, not forgetting Tipperary footballer Hugh Coghlan, it must be said that Killoe are very much up against it.

Adrian Kelly, apparently an imposing figure at centrefield alongside Coghlan, accurate centre-half-forward Barry Fitzgerald and commanding full-back and captain Brian Mulligan are other key men on the Portlaoise team who will be in a confident frame of mind taking on the Longford champions in the battle for a place in the Leinster decider against Ballymun Kickhams or Newbridge Sarsfields on December 9th.

But there are also a number of quality footballers on the Killoe team, most notably All-Star nominee Michael Quinn and fellow Longford regular Sean McCormack, and the excellent overall team effort produced in the most emphatic win over Navan O’Mahony’s has earned a lot of praise.

Young Emmets will produce their usual high intensity in the hope of unsettling Portlaoise and are particularly resolute in defence with another county player Padraig McCormack a real driving force who will be so determined to make a big impact in the full-back-line.

Quinn and captain Joe McCormack will need to figure prominently in the half-back-line while the midfield battle will prove to be a decisive factor in the eventual outcome and it remains to be seen whether the youthful pairing of Simon Kiernan and Paddy Thompson, who are facing a tough task on this occasion, can continue their promising progress.

The entire Killoe attack, providing they receive a decent supply of the ball, have the ability to pose problems for the Portlaoise defence but the main man is unquestionably Sean McCormack who is always a threat and a potential matchwinner.

Whatever happens in this intriguing encounter at O’Moore Park on Sunday, Young Emmets have done Longford really proud in getting to the last four in Leinster and will give it their best shot in the quest to cause a major upset.

Footnote: There is a clash of colours as both Killoe and Portlaoise wear similar white and green jersies so both sides will have to change. Young Emmets will apparently wear the Longford jersies at O’Moore Park.