Portlaoise advance to Leinster club decider

Brian Mulligan, Portlaoise, in action against Graham Guilfoyle, Clara. Picture: SPORTSFILE

Portlaoise (Laois) 1-9 Clara (Offaly) 0-3

Despite weather conditions again playing havoc with this fixture, the Leinster Club SFC final pairing is now finally known as Portlaoise advanced to next week's decider after a nine-point semi-final victory at O'Moore Park.

Last Sunday's game was abandoned due to heavy rain and wind, but today Meath referee Joe Curley played it through despite heavy fog.

Although the fog suddenly became denser as the game started, it failed to deter both teams who began at great pace.

Portlaoise and Clara both missed scoring opportunities in the opening minutes, with Matthew Mitchell blazing a chance wide for Clara, before Barry Fitzgerald kicked an effort into the hands of Clara goalkeeper John Buckley at the other end.

The Laois champions were first to register a score from only their second attack as Buckley failed to stop Paul Cahillane's effort from going over the crossbar.

Clara replied with two quick-fire points from John O'Hara and Thomas Deehan, pushing them into a 0-2 to 0-1 lead by the 12th minute.

Goal misses followed from both sides with former Laois player Colm Byrne watching his attempt shoot across the face of the goalmouth, while John Reynolds failed to convert a 17th minute penalty, after Stephen Deehan was brought down by Michael Nolan.

Scores were at a premium in the second quarter. A brace of Barry Fitzgerald frees pushed Portlaoise into a 0-3 to 0-2 interval lead, although Clara had dominated possession in the closing stages of the half.

Portlaoise kept up momentum on the restart with a 36th minute penalty from Cahillane nudging them four points clear.

John Mulligan's charges failed to ease up during the closing quarter as a flurry of points from Peter McNulty, Cahillane, Brian Smyth and Jack Fennell provided the insurance scores, helping Portlaoise into their ninth decider and a first since 2004.

Clara's woes were compounded late on with the 59th minute dismissal of key attacker Stephen Deehan through a second yellow card.

Scorers - Portlaoise: P Cahillane 1-3 (1-0 pen); B Fitzgerald (0-2f), P McNulty 0-2 each, B Smyth, J Fennell 0-1 each

Scorers - Clara: T Deehan (0-1f), S Deehan, J O’Hara 0-1 each

PORTLAOISE: M Nolan; E Bland, C Healy, M McNulty; B Mulligan, K Fitzpatrick, K Lillis; A Fennelly, B McCormack; C Rogers, B Glynn, P McNulty; P Cahillane, C Byrne, B Fitzgerald.

Subs used: B Smyth for Fitzpatrick (half-time), C Boyle for Byrne (55 mins), J Fennell for B Fitzgerald (59), C Higgins for Mulligan (60).

CLARA: J Buckley; D Kelly, A Cronin, D Baggot; P Mitchell, M Mitchell, L Hiney; S Brady, E Brady; T Dalton, J O’Hara, G Guilfoyle; S Deehan, J Reynolds, T Deehan.

Subs used: J Quinn for Baggot (38 mins), P Deehan for O’Hara (43), M Rosney for Cronin (54), J Ledwith for P Mitchell (55).

Referee: Joe Curley (Meath)

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