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Port' down champs

Portlaoise 1-14 Moorefield 1-11


CENTRE STAGE: Portlaoise midfielder Kieran Lillis. Pic: Sportsfile

CENTRE STAGE: Portlaoise midfielder Kieran Lillis. Pic: Sportsfile

CENTRE STAGE: Portlaoise midfielder Kieran Lillis. Pic: Sportsfile

IT'S impossible to gauge but perhaps the most significant mini victory for Portlaoise yesterday in Newbridge was winning the pre-match coin toss to decide which goal to play into.

As Paul Cahillane pointed towards the town end of St Conleth's Park to confirm his decision, a dark, foreboding cloud filled enough of the sky to require the use of floodlights - only they have none in Newbridge.

When it came shortly after, the rain was heavy and incessant.

So Portlaoise went long and looked for blood.

"We were playing the Leinster champions and you want to hit them hard and notch up as many scores on the board as possible," reasoned Portlaoise's manager, Malachy McNulty, "but you can't guarantee that with the wind either."

Nor could they guarantee that Moorefield goalkeeper, Thomas Corley, would spill four balls and have a kick-out meltdown in the half.

His handling errors led directly to 1-2 for Portlaoise while the perennial Laois champions devoured restart after restart, particularly through midfielder Ciarán McEvoy.

With the Leinster champions of last year down by seven points, they replaced Corley.

"There's no scapegoats here," Moorefield manager, Ross Glavin insisted.

"We said to the lads at half-time, we all aren't happy with how we're performing. Subs are going to have to be made when the team is underperforming.

"They're not to take it as a personal decision. Subs just had to come on and we had to change certain things."

A year ago today, Portlaoise surrendered a late four-point lead in the Leinster SFC quarter-final to lose to Moorefield to O'Moore Park.

In the subsequent provincial final, Glavin's team trailed St Loman's by six points with just six minutes to play yet won by two.

So when Portlaoise's All Star nominee goalkeeper, Graham Brody, botched a routine catch in the same goal as Corley endured his travails, allowing Niall Hurley-Lynch to snipe a goal, we had the makings of a game.

"We said to the guys at half time 'you win some, you lose some'," Glavin revealed.

"But if we're going to go out today, we're going to go out with a respectable second half performance."

By that stage though, the wind had eased.

And with Paul Cahillane and the ageless Brian 'Bruno' McCormack as prime outlets up front, Portlaoise played smart, counter-attacking football to keep Moorefield out of reach.

"Our particular game-plan all year was to try as best we can to move the ball as much as possible," added McNulty, who described the Leinster semi-final against Kilmacud Crokes as "a huge game".

"I'm just after hearing it (other semi-final result) five minutes ago. All your eggs are in one basket for this one now, you prep for Kilmacud and you go hard at that one."

SCORERS - Portlaoise: P Cahillane 0-7 (3f), C Rogers 1-2 (0-2f), B McCormack 0-2, K Lillis, G Dillon, R Maher 0-1 each. Moorefield: N Hurley-Lynch 1-1, É O'Connor 0-4 (1f), R Sweeney, A Tyrrell (2f), E Heavey 0-2 each.

PORTLAOISE: G Brody; D Seale, Chris Finn, C Healy; F Flanagan, Colin Finn, D Holland; C McEvoy, K Lillis; G Dillon, C Boyle, C Rogers; P Cahillane, B McCormack, R Maher. Subs: B Glynn for Rogers (45), Lawless for Maher (50).

MOOREFIELD: T Corley; L Callaghan, L Healy, M Dempsey; K Murnaghan, A Durney, J Murray; D Flynn, A Masterson; C O'Connor, R Sweeney, É O'Connor; E Heavey, A Tyrrell, N Hurley-Lynch. Subs: I Meehan for Flynn (28), I McDonnell for Corley (ht), S Healy for Murnaghan (38), J Phillips for C O'Connor (58), M McDermott for Heavey (59), A Mullins for Hurley-Lynch (62).

REF: B Tiernan (Dublin).