Thursday 14 December 2017

McCormack strike sends Portlaoise on glory trail as Moorefield falter

Portlaoise 1-9 Moorefield 0-8

Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

PORTLAOISE returned to their third final in this competition in five years following a dominant second-half display in O'Moore Park.

PORTLAOISE returned to their third final in this competition in five years following a dominant second-half display in O'Moore Park.

After recovering from an eight- point deficit in their quarter-final clash with Longford Slashers, 'The Town' made life significantly easier on themselves here yesterday and they overturned a two-point half-time difference to emerge deserving winners over the Kildare champions.

Their defence, led by an inspired Cahir Healy, ensured that Luke Dempsey's Moorefield could manage just one point from play – and that didn't come until sub Keith Duane booted over in the 53rd minute.

Healy, who along with Brian Glynn travels back from England for training on a weekly basis, was superb both at centre-back and eventually at full-back, while up front they were impressively efficient, kicking just two wides to set up a final date with St Vincent's.

It was a hot-tempered affair at times. Referee David Coldrick flashed seven yellow cards and it looked like the game wouldn't finish with the full complement of players.

Half-time handbags brought the first 30 minutes to a close, but Portlaoise's lack of discipline in the tackle saw them trail by 0-6 to 0-4 at the break.

The home side had made much the brighter start to the game and not for the first time captain Brian 'Bruno' McCormack was to the fore. He landed the first point of the match after just 10 seconds and had a hand in another as the Mick Lillis-Mark Kavanagh-managed side raced into a 0-3 to no score lead after nine minutes.

But they managed just one score in the remainder of the half as Moorefield grew into the game. Some of Coldrick's decisions didn't please the home supporters, but their tackling cost them dear as each of the Kildare men's six scores came from placed balls.

Ronan Sweeney was unerring with the right-footed efforts, while Adam Tyrrell was equally proficient on the other side as they reeled off five points on the bounce.

Paul Cahillane stopped the rot with a score from play, but Moorefield had the last say of the half through Sweeney's third free.

"We were a bit naive, giving away silly frees in front of goal," Portlaoise's McCormack agreed.

"I think they only got one point from play in the whole game, and at half-time we just said if we stopped giving away silly frees in front of goal, that we'd score up front and we'd plug away.

"In the second half the defenders worked really hard, kept their hands out, never fouled, put them under constant pressure, and it told for us in the end."

Goal chances were rare in the opening half, with Healy snuffing out the best opening, but Portlaoise created two in the opening minutes of the second period.

The door opened briefly for Cahillane but he hesitated for a split second and was bottled up. But the former Celtic trainee would make the game's crucial play, forcing Kevin Murnaghan into a turnover before rounding Tom Kinsella and feeding McCormack who rattled an empty net on 33 minutes.

That goal put them into a lead they would never relinquish, but they might have put matters to bed earlier had they taken another goal chance.

Kinsella pushed another Cahillane effort onto the post before Portlaoise butchered another goal chance as the crucial pass went astray.

And while Portlaoise's forwards were starting to motor, at the other end, Moorefield could only manage a Sweeney free and Duane's effort from play in a disappointing second half for the Newbridge side.

They kept within a score for much of the half, with Duane's point cutting the gap to two, but afterwards Dempsey conceded the Laois men were deserving winners.

"We had lads taking shots and they were under such pressure," the Moores' manager said.

"That's how determined Portlaoise were in the second half, their tackling was excellent and last week's match with Slashers seemed to stand to them. They came back in the second half and once they got the goal they were the dominant team.

"Until today we had been scoring well, but that's a mark of the opposition you are playing and credit to Portlaoise for that."

For the Laois kingpins, it's a second consecutive Leinster final and once again they'll face Dublin opposition when they go to Tullamore in two weeks' time.

"Vincent's are a very good team with top-quality players," McCormack said. "Diarmuid Connolly is probably one of the best footballers in Ireland at the minute; Ger Brennan and Mossy Quinn are still around.

"They've a lot more talent – one of their wing-forwards scored six points in the county final for them, so we're going up there and we know we're going to be underdogs.

"But at least we're back in a Leinster final, and let's hope we can go one better."

SCORERS – Portlaoise: B McCormack 1-2 (1f), P Cahillane, C Rogers (1f) 0-2 each, B Fitzgerald, M Nolan, B Glynn (1f) 0-1 each. Moorefield: R Sweeney 0-4fs, A Tyrrell 0-33fs, K Duane 0-1.

Portlaoise – M Nolan; M McNulty, P Cotter, D Seale; B Mulligan, C Healy, T Fitzgerald; C Boyle, S Nerney; B Smith, P Cahillane, B Glynn; C Rogers, B McCormack, K Lillis. Subs: E Whelan for McNulty (16), B Fitzgerald for Cotter (29), A Kelly for Nerney (52), K Fitzpatrick for Smith (55).

Moorefield – T Kinsella; L Callaghan, G Naughton, P O'Flynn; R Houlihan, K Murnaghan, J Lonergan; R Glavin, D Flynn; A Tyrrell, R Sweeney, A Mullins; N Hurley-Lynch, C Kelly, P Murray. Subs: D Whyte for Hurley-Lynch (h-t), K Duane for Murray (48), K O'Neill for Glavin (50), F Hanniffy for Callaghan (58).

Ref – D Coldrick (Meath)

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