Porto soar in closing stages of LSL season

by Dave Donnelly

Portmarnock will finish their first season back at the top level of the Leinster Senior League with a top-half finish following Sunday’s victory over Newbridge Town.

Porto ended the season with three wins from their last four against Metro Cup winners Newbridge, reigning champions St Mochta’s and FAI Intermediate Cup finalists Firhouse Clover.

It was the perfect culmination to a remarkable season that began with a narrow FAI Senior Cup defeat to St Patrick’s Athletic at Paddy’s Hill way back in July.

The final win over a resurgent Newbridge side moved Willie O’Leary’s side up to fifth – a position they will maintain should results on the final day go their way.

Christopher Burgess scored twice – the second a wonderful volley into the top corner – and Raoui Lassoued, while ex-Hibernian trainee Cody Mulhall scored a rocket of a free kick for Newbridge.

It brought to an end a season that’s been full of learning for the young coach O’Leary, who’s brought Porto three successive promotions and an Intermediate Cup semi-final in his five years in charge.

“We were undefeated in 16 of our 26 games, which is good going, and we have a plus goal difference,” O’Leary told the Dublin Gazette.

“By and large, we haven’t really been hammered. We’ve held our own in all games. We were unlucky against [champions] Bluebell out in their place.

“Crumlin, who we’ve a long history with as they beat us in the semi-final of the all-Ireland a couple of years ago, we beat them 1-0 out there which possibly cost them the league.

“We’ve held our own, but it’s a learning process.”

O’Leary, whose five years in charge have coincided with unprecedented success for the north Dublin club, is unsure if he’ll still be at the club come July.

The club have made huge strides off the field with a top-class private facility at Paddy’s Hill and two all-weather training pitches.

And the manager noted the ambition the club’s committee has shown in developing the club.

“I’ve been there five years now and it’s been five years of non-stop success.

“We’ve won a cup, won a league, had three promotions on the bounce and qualified for the FAI Senior Cup.

“We got to the semi-final of the All-Ireland. I’m going to have to sit down with the committee.

“Most clubs, you have the junior section and the senior section, and sometimes there’s a different outlook and philosophy on things.

“My son plays Under-10s and he loves coming out and watching the senior team. Ultimately, that’s where a lot of these kids will play their adult football.

“If the senior team can lead from the top down and give players ambition to play, then great – job done.

“Once the kids are encouraged, and the good habits are filtered down through the schoolboy section, we’ll be fine.”

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