Latest Laois Sport: Epic Maryborough FC fightback denies Portlaoise Rovers

Latest Laois Sport: Epic Maryborough FC fightback denies Portlaoise Rovers

All-Portlaoise CCFL Shield Final sees Maryborough prevail over Portlaoise Rovers in 7-goal thriller

Thrilling Maryborough FC fightback wrests Shield Final away from Portlaoise Rovers

Maryborough FC 4 (O’ Driscoll 43′, S. Hofmeister x 2 53′, 65′, Seamus Mulhall 103′) Portlaoise Rovers 3 (Cian Doyle x 3 10′, 12′, 66 )(AET)

CCFL Summer Shield Final

Two newly-minted Portlaoise outfits were battling to win their respective club’s first-ever silverware in this eagerly-anticipated Shield Final. The decider turned out to be an epic with great football from both sides before Maryborough overturned an early two-goal deficit to clinch the trophy deep into extra-time. The two outfits served up fast, skilful fare that belied the lowly league status of both.

From the off Maryborough FC were very nervous at the back and Portlaoise Rovers soon made them pay for that hesitancy. Good work out wide left right on the endline from Will Boland tempted the Maryborough keeper Chris Cash to lunge in. The stranded Cash could only look on in despair as Nolan worked the ball across the empty goals for the sharp Cian Doyle to tap home the opening goal after ten minutes. Worse was to follow minutes later when Rovers were soon to be celebrating a second. A good Rovers’ move up the right wing saw Maryborough scramble the ball out over the sideline. From the throw the ball broke across the face of goals. The cool Doyle let the ball come across him before swivelling and firing past Cash.

Rattled by this early two-goal salvo Maryborough took time to get into the decider. While Maryborough’s two Seans; O’ Driscoll and Hofmeister, looked menacing up front they were starved of quality service and were living off scraps. Slowly but surely Maryborough began to make inroads up front. Rovers’ keeper Colin Fitzpatrick had to be alert to nip in and save ahead of Brendan Molloy. At the other end Cash denied Doyle an early hat trick. A long Maryborough free into the Rovers’ box saw O’ Driscoll’s shot go agonisingly close to an opening goal. Rovers’ left back Gavin Cooper had to make two smart clearances in a row as Maryborough came back into the tie.

The Portlaoise Rovers squad that lost out in a seven-goal thriller

When Rovers did get on the ball they took too many touches or strayed offside continually. This helped ‘Borough get a foothold in the game. Rovers too became a little jittery at the back. The previously imperious Ross Holmes in the heart of Rovers’ defence was beaten in the air for the first time and O’ Driscoll was almost in on goals. A Maryborough free set up Seamus Lawless for a volley that was blocked. In response Rovers knitted together a fine move that ended with David Nolan’s delicious through ball setting up Doyle for a shot on goals. However Cash did well to turn the shot around his post. Cooper’s subsequent corner saw Brendan Molloy do well to scramble it clear. Those let-offs kept Maryborough in the tie and they struck just before half-time to halve the deficit. Maryborough worked the ball well from left to right out to Hofmeister. He looked up and curled in an incisive low cross with the outside of his left foot that was just begging to be hit. O’ Driscoll needed no invitation and sent his fierce shot past the despairing dive of Fitzpatrick. The half ended with ‘Borough midfielder Colm Phelan cutting in from the wing before unfurling a shot that fizzed just over Fitzpatrick’s crossbar.

That Maryborough momentum late in the opening half was sustained once play resumed. A Molloy header was somehow scrambled clear as Maryborough, backed by a strengthening wind, began to pummel the Rovers’ defence. A long Cash clearance then saw ‘Borough win a corner that Rovers managed to hack away. Lawless worked the ball cleverly to the back of the Rovers’ box but Hofmeister blazed over. Rovers responded with a smart through ball courtesy of Jordan Byrne but Boland fired high and wide. With Lawless getting on more and more ball in the heart of ‘Borough’s midfield an equaliser looked on the cards. Molloy’s free set up Dean Kavanagh for the shot that Fitzpatrick did well to hold.

Portlaoise Rovers’ starting eleven

On the counter attack Rovers had good chances to score against the run of play. Boland missed a sitter while Nolan, Corr and Holmes all missed in quick succession. Rovers were soon to rue those misses. Great work out on ‘Borough’s left wing from O’ Driscoll set Hofmeister up for the striker to impudently back hell his shot past Fitzpatrick for the equaliser. A flurry of sporadic Rovers’ raids were dealt with before Maryborough landed the lead goal their play deserved. O’ Driscoll squared the ball and Hofmeister bundled the ball home amid flailing Rovers’ limbs. ‘Borough’s joy was short-lived however as Rovers equalised within a minute. Doyle was surprised to find so much space up top out on the left flank when the ball was worked up to him. The striker kept going and then fired a venomous shot into the far corner of the goals. That equaliser was the last action before the water break.

When play resumed Maryborough shaded proceedings especially in the middle of the park. With the prompting and passing of Lawless ‘Borough had a flurry of chances. Rovers got going again when Jordan Byrne was fouled needlessly. However the free in from Holmes out on the left wing forced Gary Hofmeister into clearing it out for a Rovers’ corner. ‘Borough survived that and raided forward. When Mulhall was fouled the subsequent free forced a world-class stop by Fitzpatrick. Troy Fagan couldn’t react in time however when the ball broke out to him just five yards out from goal. Late on in normal time a ‘Borough defensive mistake saw Boland break through but blaze high when a low shot was on. In response a great’ give and go’ between Lawless and Sean Hofmeister saw the final shot from Lawless fizz just wide at the back post. Right before the whistle sounded a great Rovers’ cross saw Byrne in time and space but the ball got caught under his feet with the goals beckoning.

Extra time began with Rovers threading a ball through the heart of the ‘Borough defence. A last-ditch clearance saw the ball cleared and Maryborough broke away. Again the Rovers’ defence dealt with that raid. The next ‘Borough attack yielded the decisive winning goal. A great through ball to Gary Hofmeister in the box saw the ‘Borough player fouled. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. Up stepped Seamus Lawless to plant the spot kick low to Fitzpatrick’s left. That converted penalty proved to be the winning goal as the last few minutes of the first half of extra time and the second half saw few clearcut chances for two tiring sides.

Maryborough FC’s starting eleven

For Portlaoise Rovers they can be proud of their performance in their first-ever final. Ross Holmes was immense especially in the first half and directed play and communicated well from his centre-half berth. Up front the Rovers’ duo of Will Boland and Cian Doyle linked up well and terrorised the ‘Borough defence especially for the opening thirty minutes. Aaron Keane and David Nolan showed nice touches early in the game as well. For the Maryborough men it was a great fightback. Rovers left the door open for them when not notching a third first-half goal. From late on in the opening half and for the remainder of the match Seamus Mulhall was immense in midfield. He directed the play and tempo and ensured there was good balls going into the frontmen. Shaun Mulhall did really well in the heart of the ‘Borough defence especially late on in the game. Sean O’ Driscoll and Sean Hofmeister did well up front while introduced subs Kyle Burke and Gary Hofmeister can be pleased with their performances as well.

The Maryborough FC squad that fought from two goals down to nick a seven-goal thriller

Maryborough FC

Chris Cash, Killian Breen, Garreth Dunne, Shaun Mulhall, Conor Brennan, Dean Kavanagh, Colm Phelan, Seamus Lawless, Brendan Molloy, Sean O’Driscoll, Sean Hofmeister.

Subs: Gary Hofmeister for Molloy, Kyle Burke for Breen, Troy Fagan for Brennan, Byron Conroy for Fagan, Joe Delaney, Shane Tynan, Nathan Da Silva.

Portlaoise Rovers

Colin Fitzpatrick; Eoin Carey, Gavin Cooper, Ronan Corr, Ross Holmes; Jamie Shinners, Aaron Keane, Conor Dwane, David Nolan; Cian Doyle, Will Boland

Subs: Jordan Byrne for Ronan Corr, Alan Roberts for Aaron Keane, Conor McKenna for Jordan Byrne