'Both teams would have been happy with the replay rather than it be settled on penalties'

Portlaoise’s Craig Rogers kicked the winning spot kick to book their place in the Leinster SFC semi-finals.

PORTLAOISE FORWARD CRAIG Rogers says he would have preferred to settle his side’s Leinster quarter-final in a replay rather than a penalty shootout.

craig-rogers Portlaoise's Craig Rogers [file pic]. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Rogers kicked the winning spot-kick to send the Laois champions into the semi-finals of the Leinster SFC club championship following an extra-time thriller against St Patrick’s of Wicklow on Sunday.

Both sides couldn’t be separated at the end of normal time, and were still deadlocked following two periods of extra-time which produced a scoreline of 1-11 to 2-8.

Penalties were required to determine a winner, with substitute Rogers stepping up to kick the decisive goal and edge the shootout 5-4 in Portlaoise’s favour.

Conor Boyle, Ricky Maher, Ronan McEvoy and Graham Brody slotted home the other penalties for Portlaoise, while Thomas Kelly was the unfortunate player who missed for St Patrick’s after his attempt went over the bar.

Defeated St Patrick’s manager Casey O’Brien told RTÉ Radio 1′s Sunday Sport that a replay would have been a more suitable way to decide the result, and while Rogers was relieved to convert his shot, he agrees with O’Brien’s suggestion.

“We’ll take it today but I can see where they’re coming from,” Rogers tells The42 after making his introduction in the final minutes of normal time in Sunday’s quarter-final.

“If we had lost yesterday, we’d have been disappointed to lose on penalties after such a battle.

I don’t see any reason why the game couldn’t have gone ahead next weekend in Portlaoise. We would have been more than happy to welcome them down to Portlaoise for a replay.

“It’s just the congestion of the fixtures in the GAA calendar. They have no choice but to get games over with and avoid replays.”

Rogers added that a replay didn’t appear to be an option at the end of extra-time, and says the referee informed both sides that they would have to face into a penalty shootout.

“It’s completely out of [the] club’s control which is unfortunate.

Had the referee gone to both teams and said you have the choice of a replay next weekend, I think both teams would have taken it and been happy with whatever the outcome was in the replay, rather than it be settled on penalties.”

A penalty shootout might not have been a satisfying way to seal the victory, but it did offer Rogers a shot at redemption.

Portlaoise reached the Leinster semi-finals last year where they came up against then-Dublin champions Kilmacud Crokes. Their clash at Parnell Park culminated in an injury-time penalty for Portlaoise which Rogers was appointed to take.

david-nestor-saves-a-penalty-from-craig-rogers Rogers saw his penalty saved in the Leinster SFC semi-final against Kilmacud Crokes last year. Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

However, his attempt was saved and Kilmacud progressed to the final with a three-point win.

Rogers admits that he recalled that heartache as he approached the penalty spot again on Sunday in Aughrim.

“I was thinking back to last year when I missed against Kilmacud. I was thinking to myself, ‘Look, I went high that day and the keeper guessed right. Whatever happens, I need to keep this on the deck.’

“That was just my focus going up.

Last year I changed my mind at the last second. I made sure this time that I would stick to the side I picked and stick with the shot I wanted to hit because I didn’t properly connect last year and it was gnawing at me the whole year.

“So when the chance came around yesterday, I just picked where I wanted it to go and how I wanted to hit it. If he saves it he saves it, you can live with that a lot easier than what I did last year.

“I didn’t exactly hit it with huge pace, I just wanted to place it and luckily for me, it went into the corner.”

Rogers was undoubtedly the hero for Portlaoise, although he deflects all the praise towards his teammates and insists that there was no red carpet treatment for him in the dressing-room after the game.

It’s not that type of group,” he laughs. “You’d be brought back down to earth fairly quickly. There were plenty of other lads who had a much more of an impact on that game than the penalty did.”

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Rogers is thrilled to play his part in helping Portlaoise edge closer to their first Leinster decider since 2015, but this season has also brought challenges for him.

craig-rogers-and-cormac-ohora Rogers works as a prison officer in Cloverhill. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Game time has often been hard for him to earn, as evidenced in his late substitute appearance against St Patrick’s.

He work as a prison officer in the Cloverhill facility in Clondalkin, a job which involves plenty of shift work. Trying to combine that with his commitments to Portlaoise sometimes means he has to be content with a place on the bench.

He’s happy to accept that role in the squad, but will fight to squeeze into the starting team in time for their Leinster semi-final against Carlow champions Éire Og on Saturday 23 November.

“It’s just one of those situations where work has made it difficult for me to get to training,” Rogers explains.

“I’m based in Dublin and I work shifts so it’s very difficult to get home for training. Management have been great with me and gave me every opportunity. 

I suppose yesterday when it was coming near the end of normal time, they probably thought, ‘last roll of the dice, we’ll get him in and see what happens.’

“I think it worked out for all of us so we’ll all be happy. The focus now will be getting back into contention in two weeks.”

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