"We're not going to Croke Park for a day out. We're going there for a result" - Portarlington on the rise
Portarlington are a club on the rise but it's no surprise to anyone in Laois.
Having won their first county title in 20 years back in August, they followed it up three months later to take the 2021 crown. Portlaoise were hammered that day and another big scalp was taken last Sunday, when they defeated St Loman's of Westmeath in the Leinster quarter final.
This sets Port up for what Robbie Pigott describes as a fairytale Croke Park Leinster semi-final against Kilmacud Crokes on Saturday but make no bones about it, these boys aren't content with just a day out.
Pigott, who plays for Laois and is one of Portarlington's key defenders, was part of their underage team that won the minor in 2014 and with the most of that team sticking together, they're used to winning. And just because they're deep in Leinster against so-called superclubs, that doesn't mean they're going to change their ways now.
Having led the Westmeath champions by 1-6 to 0-1 early on, it was a real character test for Martin Murphy's side when they trailed by a point in the second half. But they drove on and inspired by the brilliance of youngsters Cathal Bennett and Jake Foster, they won on a final scoreline of 1-14 to 1-12.
"Port teams in the past might have dropped the heads with the black card, with our keeper going off, throwing away the lead, so really everyone rallying together was really unbelievable," says Pigott on The GAA Hour.
"Really there was no way we were missing out on Croker. It's fairytale stuff to be playing a Leinster semi-final there. None of the Leinster finals prior were even played in Croke Park, so it is an unbelievable incentive but we're not going up there for a day out. We're going up there for a result."
One of the main talking points from the game was the man-marking job Pigott did on John Heslin. The Westmeath ace kicked five frees but was held scoreless from play and Pigott says that while there was a 'back and forth' between them, there were no hard feelings after the game.
"I always seem to get these jobs! I don't know why.
"I would have marked John twice before with Laois. He's obviously an unbelievable player. I knew I was going to have my hands full so, we had a good auld battle, plenty of back and forth and ah sure, it's all a bit of craic. At the end of the game, there's no love lost, you shake hands and you move on win or lose."
"The work that has gone on in the club at juvenile level has been unbelievable so this has been coming for a while," he concludes.
"We had a really good crop of players, winning the minor in 2014 and then following it up with two under-21s. Our minor team has stuck together and it's great that we have."
Kilmacud Crokes would want their wits about them.