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'They're a year on, a year older and probably that little bit more mature'

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Diarmuid Connolly, St Vincent's. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Diarmuid Connolly, St Vincent's. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Diarmuid Connolly, St Vincent's. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

EIGHT times now on the spin, Portlaoise have won the Laois county championship.

They've won Leinster once in that stretch in 2009 and of the seven defeats, six have come at the hands of Dublin clubs.

Three of those have now been inflicted by St Vincent's.

"I think they're going to take some beating this year," reckoned Zach Touhy afterwards.

"I'm not sure who's going to do it. They're an incredibly well organised side. They're the closest thing to a professional outfit in the GAA at the minute, so very hard to beat."

Touhy's pre-season with AFL club Carlton begins next week so yesterday would be his last involvement of the year with Portlaoise regardless.

sweeter

But that didn't make it any sweeter to swallow.

"I love it, any chance I get to come back and play with Portlaoise...it's still kind of where my heart is," he explained.

"Those losses are every bit as hard as losses out there.

"Some of the goals they got in the second half they got at good times and we probably should have done a lot better than we did."

One thing you certainly couldn't accuse Vincent's of was looking past Portlaoise yesterday because speaking afterwards, their manager Tommy Conroy wasn't absolutely sure where the semi-final will be played.

As it happens, it will be in Parnell Park against Garycastle, most likely as top billing on a double-header with Kilmacud Crokes' hurlers, who face the Kilkenny champions on the same day.

In truth though, you got the feeling that Vincent's took care of the greatest threat to them retaining a Leinster title yesterday.

"There's probably a nice cohesion now in the group, in the 38 to 40 lads we have," Conroy explained of the very obvious evolution of this team.

"There's an understanding there amongst them and they work hard for each other. They're a year on, a year older now and probably a little more mature."

That they have managed to keep a settled, healthy team since the All-Ireland win in March has helped.

If Ger Brennan's not at peak fitness, it doesn't show.

He was in the thick of it again yesterday, hitting everything that moved and leading from six.

And Diarmuid Connolly was able to glide through the game whilst minding himself after taking a couple of heavy knocks, neither of which - Conroy clarified - were likely to keep him from football.

It helped too that Vincent's had 13 days to prepare.

Last year, they won a county final and only had two points to spare against St Loman's the following week.

"Oh massive, massive," Conroy insisted.

vital

"It was really nice that they could enjoy the win in Dublin, take a rest and then get back working really hard again. For amateur players, that's vital.

"We're happy we're on to the next stage and it's great to be back in a Leinster semi-final."

Nor is there any great traces of fatigue, mental or physical, from so long on the road.

"I wouldn't think so," said Conroy

"When you're winning it's nice. That brings lads on and keeps the hunger there."

"The competition in Dublin football is of a really high standard and to get out of Dublin is a big thing.

"The danger after winning Dublin was to get straight out again but that's what they've been very good at," the Vincent's manager concluded. "As a group, to set a standard again, want to go on and achieve more."


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