Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final Play-Off
Inspired by JJ Hutchinson, Gaultier secured a Senior Championship Quarter-Final berth thanks to victory over a game Portlaw line-up on a humid Thursday evening under the Lemybrien lights.
The Barony men effectively led from gun to tape, and only added a point to their tally in the closing 20 minutes, by which time they led by 2-12 to 0-4.
And while Portlaw never gave up the ghost, adding 2-3 to their own tally over the closing 16 minutes, Gaultier had made the hard yards count by then and never looked in danger of being turned over.
Conor O’Riordan got the men in green and gold onto the scoreboard inside two minutes, a lead doubled barely a minute later via a JJ Hutchinson free. Hutchinson converted his second free in the 14th minute, by which time Portlaw had already recorded three wides. From Gaultier’s next attack, Conor O’Riordan pointed again to send his side four clear without reply.
But Portlaw were to enjoy to a purple patch between the 16th and 20th minutes, as Michael Donnelly (a free), John Power (following great work by Luke Woods) and Donnelly again (assisted by Jordan O’Sullivan) all sent the white flag flying.
Ultimately, the opening third of the game proved its most competitive portion, as Gaultier would outscore the Tannery Town men by 1-4 to 0-1 over the closing nine minutes of the half.
JJ Hutchinson, who enjoyed a lively tussle with Portlaw full-back Christopher Mackey throughout the match, converted a superb point from an acute angle down the right flank after 21 minutes.
Caomhán Maguire’s 24th minute effort was eventually signalled as a point following consultation between referee Tom Mansfield and his ‘Mountain End’ umpires before Michael Donnelly turned over a 26th minute free for Portlaw. JJ Hutchinson landed another terrific point three minutes later to leave Gaultier three points clear before the next attack, involving Maguire and Alex Deegan, sent Hutchinson goalward. But his progress was deemed to have been illegally impeded by Christopher Mackey, leading to a penalty which he expertly converted. And the first half scoring was completed in stoppage time by Caomhán Maguire, whose dipping effort was tipped over the crossbar by Portlaw goalkeeper Tom Walsh.
The pattern of the game altered little upon its resumption, as JJ Hutchison converted his third free of the game to send Gaultier 1-9 to 0-4 clear. Both teams traded wides before Hutchison scored from another placed ball in the 38th minute, and the inter-county attacker demonstrated his class again a minute later with another sweetly struck point.
Brother Wayne got in on the scoring act come the 40th minute as his strike was again nudged north by Tom Walsh’s fingertips (1-12 to 0-4), by which time Portlaw’s lengthy kick-outs (via Christopher Mackey) were being largely devoured and returned goalward by Gaultier. While those impressive clearances gave Portlaw every chance of retaining possession, at times they were overwhelmed by Gaultier’s fetching and moving, and a second goal duly arrived in the 41st minute.
Gary Cullinane, assisted by JJ Hutchinson, was on hand to round Tom Walsh and kick the ball into an empty net to send his side 14 points clear, leaving Portlaw with a mountain higher than the fog-shrouded Comeraghs to climb between then and full-time. But to give Portlaw their due, they stuck to the case and dug in, and the qualities demonstrated in the closing quarter should give them reason to be optimistic when facing Ardmore in their Relegation Semi-Final. Jordan O’Sullivan smashed a superb goal into the top left-hand corner of David Whitty’s net in the 44th minute after demonstrating great strength during his run on goal from the inside left channel. Shane Power pointed well a minute later before JJ Hutchison rounded off Gaultier’s tally come the 48th minute.
John Power turned over a free at the opposite end just moments later, while David Cullinane came within a whisker of landing a third Gaultier goal in the 50th minute, following a powerful run by substitute Richard Hurley.
Michael Donnelly, who produced his customary full-blooded effort on the night for Portlaw, landed a 52nd minute free between the uprights and his blistering drop-kicked free in stoppage broke to John Power, who tucked the ball low into the Gaultier net. Given the pace and precision scoring they demonstrated on Thursday last, Gaultier could well pose Ballinacourty with problems aplenty come their Quarter-Final clash. And if Portlaw can take the last quarter of this game as some sort of momentum builder, then a second 2018 Championship win over Ardmore looks well within their capabilities.