O'Connor points the way for Moorefield
Moorefield 2-13 Rathnew 2-7 - Leinster SF club semi-final
Rathnew's win over St Vincent's will remain one of the standout successes of this year's provincial club championships but that's where the romance ended for the Wicklow champions.
Moorefield took their imposing brand of football to Aughrim yesterday and applied it so efficiently in the rain, wind and mud that despite having an extra man for the final 23 minutes Rathnew were unable to match them.
Still, Rathnew were in with an outside chance of saving the day when they trailed by a goal heading into stoppage-time but had their ambitions finally wrecked by 18-year-old Moorefield defender Mark Dempsey, who got forward to score his side's second goal.
He had spent the rest of the afternoon in close proximity to Leighton Glynn, having been assigned close marking duties on the Rathnew veteran.
It was honours even between the pair in an intriguing battle where Glynn had some good moments, as did Dempsey, who worked extremely hard.
But then a high workrate is central to how Moorefield conduct their business, which is just as well since they have developed a habit of making things very difficult for themselves.
They won the Kildare final despite having two men sent off in the first half and they were short-handed for the final 23 minutes yesterday after Cian O'Connor was sent off for lashing out at Glynn as they waited for a '45' to to be taken.
Watching his brother head for the bench didn't distract Eanna O'Connor, who calmly pointed the '45' to put Moorefield ahead.
O'Connor scored six points from placed balls and added two more from play, which was quite an achievement in the difficult conditions.
His father Jack, the All-Ireland-winning former Kerry manager, looked on approvingly and will now look forward to helping Moorefield plan for their first Leinster final since 2006.
Manager Ross Glavin talked of Jack's role afterwards, explaining that he has had "an involvement in training sessions throughout the year".
"It's great to be able to lean on his experience when required," said Glavin, who believes that Eanna is ready to step up to inter-county level with Kildare.
"I think it's inevitable that next year he will be called into the fold. As the season has gone on and the matches have got bigger, his form has come good.
"I have no doubt that he will be approached (by the Kildare management) but I hope it won't be until March 18."
Referencing All-Ireland final time underlines the extent of Moorefield's ambitions, which is understandable in a season where their rate of improvement has been impressive.
Yesterday's test looked very difficult but they worked through it calmly and intelligently, drawing high praise from Rathnew manager Harry Murphy.
"They are a good team, well coached and well able to take on whatever is put in front of them. We're gutted to lose but couldn't have any complaints," he said.
Murphy felt that that the Kildare champions' greater physical strength made them better suited to the testing conditions, especially in the second half which developed into a real slog.
"The extra man wasn't really an issue. We couldn't take advantage of it. In summer football, you can get some advantage because a player (spare man) can get on the ball, but in winter they (opposition) just drop a man back and make it more difficult," he said.
Beating Celbridge with 13 men in the Kildare final gave Moorefield invaluable experience in coping with adversity, which stood to them again yesterday.
However, they will need to reflect on their discipline, which is not as good as it should be for a team with designs on provincial and All-Ireland titles.
"It's frustrating that we are losing our discipline at times. I didn't see the incident (involving Cian O'Connor) but from what I heard it didn't look like there was much in it," said Glavin.
"Our players are used to that situation - the recent experience helped them to adapt to where the space is and what type to shape to keep.
"The important thing is that the scoreboard keeps moving, and we scored after the red card and added a few other scores too."
The sides were level at 1-6 each when O'Connor was sent off in the 37th minute before Moorefield used wind advantage to pull four points clear.
Rathnew badly needed a break and it came in the 44th minute when they were awarded a penalty for a foul on James Stafford. Glynn expertly converted the chance into a goal, and the hosts might have had another shortly afterwards but were denied by a block from Moorefield full-back Liam Healy on Mark Doyle's effort.
It was an important intervention by Healy, who earlier had the misfortune to deflect the ball into his own net off Graham Merrigan's drive in the 32nd minute.
His 46th-minute block made up for that as it was Rathnew's last big chance. Moorefield responded by kicking three points, taking them to the edge of a victory which was made certain by Dempsey's late strike.
While Eanna O'Connor's was hugely impressive, he had a rival for man-of-the-match in Niall Hurley Lynch, who scored 1-3 from play as well as winning two frees which were pointed.
His goal came in the third minute and provided Moorefield with an early boost against the wind before Rathnew battled back.
However, they spent all of the half chasing down Moorefield, rather than buildiing a lead with the wind. It left them vulnerable in a second half which they lost by 1-8 to 1-2.
Scorers - Moorefield: E O'Connor 0-8 (5fs, 1 45'), N Hurley Lynch 1-3, M Dempsey 1-0, I Meehan 0-2. Rathnew: L Glynn 1-1 (1-0 pen), G Merrigan 1-0, E Doyle 0-3 (1f), J Stafford, D Staunton, J Merrigan 0-1 each.
Moorefield - T Kinsella; L Callaghan, L Healy, S Healy; K Murnaghan, J Murray, M Dempsey; D Flynn, A Masterson; C O'Connor, E Heavey, E O'Connor; I Meehan, R Sweeney, N Hurley-Lynch. Subs: D Whyte for Masterson (45), S Dempsey for S Healy (56), P O'Flynn for Callaghan (60), A Mullins for Hurley Lynch (62).
Rathnew - P Dignam; P Merrigan,D Power, J Snell; W Kavanagh, R O'Brien, E Glynn; J Stafford, R Smith; S Byrne, D Staunton, G Merrigan; M Doyle, L Glynn, E Doyle. Subs: J Merrigan for E Doyle (41 b/c), N Mernagh for Byrne (50), J Manley for E Glynn (53), C Healy for O'Brien (56).
Ref - J Hickey (Carlow)