Éire Óg power past Portlaoise into Leinster Club SFC Final
AIB Leinster club senior football championship semi-final
EIRE OG (CARLOW) 2-11 PORTLAOISE (LAOIS) 1-6
By Paul Keane at MW Hire O'Moore Park, Portlaoise
Eire Og of Carlow are back in the big time after producing a display of high quality to surge through to the AIB Leinster club SFC final.
The five-time winners, who lit up the 1990s with all of their titles coming between 1992 and 1998, rolled back the years at MW Hire O'Moore Park to advance with surprising ease.
The sides were deadlocked at half-time but Eire Og dominated the second period to outscore their opponents by 1-6 to 0-1.
Chris Blake was terrific in attack for Eire Og, striking 1-4 while Ross Dunphy added their second goal on the hour.
It was disappointment for Niall Rigney's Portlaoise who overcome St Pat's in the quarter-finals on penalties but came up well short on this occasion.
They finished with 13 players as goalscorer Kieran Lillis and forward Conor Boyle were both dismissed in the closing quarter as Eire Og turned the screw.
Joe Murphy's Carlow side will play Ballyboden St Endas or Garrycastle in the December 8 final while the Carlow hurling champions, St Mullins, are also through to their decider.
Aside from a Portlaoise scoring blitz in the 10 minutes or so before half-time, it was all Eire Og and they burst out of the traps with a 1-3 to 0-1 lead after the opening quarter.
The two-time All-Ireland finalists made four changes to their lineup beforehand and felt they got the mix just right with 1-1 inside the opening 60 seconds.
Blake netted in the opening play when he blasted a right footed shot across the goalkeeper and in off the upright.
Dunphy then added a point and suddenly Eire Og were in dreamland, opening up that five-point lead after 15 minutes.
Portlaoise didn't panic at that stage and were impressively back on level terms by the 19th minute.
Lillis' 18th minute goal was crucial though veteran attacker Brian McCormack was the key player during this period.
He picked out Lillis with a clever fist pass into space for that goal, scored an earlier point himself and also set up Benny Carroll, Gareth Dillon and Boyle for first-half points.
It was tense, cagey stuff but exciting and engaging and the sides were level three times in total late in the first half before hitting the interval locked on 1-5 apiece.
Portlaoise started Graham Brody in goals after the Laois stopper's strong form when introduced in the quarter-final win over St Pat's.
Michael Nolan had to make way but Brody more than justified his selection with a terrific penalty save to deny Cormac Mullins in the 19th minute.
Lillis, who finished the first half with 1-1, was grateful to his goalkeeper having been at fault for pushing Sean Gannon for the penalty.
Eire Og started the second-half with similar gusto and again struck a series of scores before Portlaoise had settled.
Blake and sub Niall Quinlan blasted a brace of points apiece and with Portlaoise conjuring only a McCormack point in response, the underdogs led 1-9 to 1-6.
The margin was out to four points when Quinlan clipped another free for Eire Og in the 46th minute and with their defence on top form at the other end, the winning line was coming into sight.
Eire Og duly surged to success and Dunphy's 60th minute goal after a lung bursting run up the pitch capped another famous night for the club.
Eire Og scorers: Christopher Blake 1-4 (0-1f), Ross Dunphy 1-1, Niall Quinlan 0-3 (0-3f), Jordan Lowry 0-1, Colm Hulton 0-1, Darragh O'Brien 0-1.
Portlaoise scorers: Kieran Lillis 1-1, Brian McCormack 0-2 (0-1f), Benny Carroll 0-1, Gareth Dillon 0-1, Conor Boyle 0-1.
EIRE OG: Ricky Keating; Jordan Lowry, Mark Fitzgerald, Brendan Kavanagh; Richie Mahon, Mark Furey, Paul McElligott; Sean Gannon, Eoghan Ruth; Ross Dunphy, Darragh O'Brien, Colm Hulton; Christopher Blake, Jordan Morrissey, Cormac Mullins. Subs: Niall Quinlan for Mullins (h/t), Derek Hayden for Hulton (51), Reece Denieffe for O'Brien (62), Kelvin Chatten for Mahon (65).
P*ORTLAOISE:* Graham Brody; Gary Saunders, Frank Flanagan, David Seale; David Holland, Chris Finn, Paddy Downey; Kieran Lillis, Ciaran McEvoy; Benny Carroll, Conor Boyle, Brian Glynn; Gareth Dillon, Brian McCormack, Ricky Maher. Subs: Damon Larkin for Downey (h/t), Colin Finn for Holland (43), Craig Rogers for Maher (48), Ronan McEvoy for Flanagan (54).
REFEREE: Patrick Maguire (Longford).