Leinster Club SFC quarter-final
Portlaoise got revenge on Moorefield as they edged through to the last four in Leinster by hanging on for a three-point victory in a bruising quarter-final in Newbridge.
In wet, windy and sometimes torrid conditions, the Laois champions showed a little more composure when handling the ball and seemed to deal with the elements with greater ease as they stripped Moorefield of their Leinster crown.
It was a somewhat disjointed performance from the Leinster champions who too often let possession go by being a fraction off with their passing, while Portlaoise were more measured in their approach as they let the ball travel long towards their full forward line in search of scores. It was a nice piece of revenge for a Portlaoise side who were beaten at this stage last year by Moorefield as they went on to win the provincial title.
Moorefield were able to welcome key defender Mark Dempsey back into the side after he had missed the last three games having suffered a rib injury against Johnstownbridge in the county quarter-final, so Ross Glavin was able to choose from a full deck of players.
The early stages brought about a couple of gripping battles as Liam Healy and veteran Brian McCormack competed for numerous balls on the edge of the Moorefield square, while the midfield area was a battleground as the ball resembled a bar of soap in the wet and windy conditions.
Portlaoise played a lovely, direct brand of football that certainly examined the Moorefield fullback line, with the likes of Paul Cahillane and Craig Rogers causing numerous problems throughout the first half. It was the former who opened the scoring after Conor Boyle sent a long ball in towards him, and he doubled his tally shortly after when tapping over a free. Moorefield’s solitary score in the opening 20 minutes came after Liam Healy broke out of defence with possession, the ball eventually being worked to Eddie Heavey who provided the finish from close range.
They failed to really build on that fifth minute score however, and another couple of pointed frees from Cahillane gave Portlaoise a three-point lead that they thoroughly deserved after dominating the first quarter.
The Moores could have really turned the game in their favour when they engineered a couple of goal chances in the space of three minutes. Firstly, Heavey came close when he burst through the cover and struck a low shot towards the bottom corner, but Laois goalkeeper Graham Brody got down smartly to parry his shot. Ronan Sweeney soon came close when he attempted a speculative shot from 15 metres that went rebounded off the feet of Brody towards Niall Hurley-Lynch, and the Moorefield corner-forward smashed it over the bar to cut the gap to two points.
Portlaoise made the most of their solitary goal chance in the first half as Craig Rogers found the net in the 21st minute. A shot from Boyle dropped short and Moorefield ‘keeper Tom Corley’s punch clear was palmed back towards goal by Cahillane, and when the ball fell to Rogers he coolly slotted home from close range.
Tyrrell responded with a point from a free for the Moores, but the full-forward injured his hand shortly after and appeared to have a finger popped back into place on the field before continuing. Portlaoise enjoyed a good spell after that as they hit three in a row through Kieran Lillis, Rogers and Ricky Maher, all of whom sent over good efforts from play.
Tyrrell and Cahillane traded scores at either end before the half-time break leaving Portlaoise with a 1-8 to 0-4 advantage, though Moorefield were playing with the wind for the second half. Manager Ross Glavin called Daryl Flynn ashore just before the interval and also changed his goalkeeper at half-time, clearly seeking a response from his players as they faced into a big second half battle.
Sweeney got them off to an ideal start when he fired over a good score after soloing through the middle, and the Kildare champions really boosted their challenge when Niall Hurley-Lynch found the net in the 34th minute. It was an entirely avoidable goal from a Portlaoise point of view, but it demonstrated Hurley-Lynch’s poaching prowess as he followed in a shot from Heavey which dropped short, and he was there to palm the ball into the net when Brody dropped it from his grasp.
The Laois kingpins responded in excellent fashion however, kicking three points in as many minutes to surge into a five-point lead. McCormack clipped over a point from close range before Cahillane continued his fine display by slotting over two superb efforts from play.
Moorefield settled once again however, with Éanna O’Connor starting to exert a little more influence on proceedings and Tyrrell beginning to pull the strings from centre-forward. The former reduced the gap to four with a fine score before Sweeney fired over his second of the afternoon as Moorefield looked to be bouncing back. There was a sense that the visitors were always able to find a key score at vital times to keep their noses in front, and McCormack stepped up to deliver a big score for his team as the game went into the final quarter.
Glavin’s side seemed to be building to a crescendo when they scored a couple of points in quick succession as long balls from Tyrrell set up scores for O’Connor and Heavey, but they never built from there.
Points from Cahillane and Garreth Dillon eventually did the trick for the visiting side, and they could have had a goal four minutes from time were it not for a flying save from Ian McDonnell to deny Scott Lawless from point blank range.
Moorefield cut the gap to three before the death through an O’Connor free, and despite having a speculative call for a penalty after Ian Meehan went down in the square, they couldn’t really test Brody and find the goal they desperately craved.
It’s the end of the road as regards this year’s action for Moorefield, and they looked quite dejected on the full-time whistle, but they’ve been on some journey in the last 18 months and will undoubtedly be ready to go again next year.
Scorers for Moorefield: E O’Connor 0-4(1f), N Hurley-Lynch 1-1, A Tyrrell(2f), E Heavey and R Sweeney 0-2 each.
Scorers for Portlaoise: P Cahillane 0-7(3f), C Rogers 1-2(1f), B McCormack 0-2, R Maher, G Dillon and K Lillis 0-1 each.
Thomas Corley; Liam Callaghan, Liam Healy, Mark Dempsey; Kevin Murnaghan, Anthony Durney, James Murray; Daryl Flynn, Aaron Masterson; Cian O’Connor, Ronan Sweeney, Eddie Heavey; Éanna O’Connor, Adam Tyrrell, Niall Hurley-Lynch.
Subs used: Ian Meehan for Flynn 30mins, Ian McDonnell for Corley HT, Sean Healy for Murnaghan 38mins, Jason Philips for C O’Connor 57mins, Mark McDermott for Heavey 59mins.
Graham Brody; Frank Flanagan, David Seale, Chris Finn; Colin Finn, Cahir Healy, David Holland; Ciaran McEvoy, Kieran Lillis; Gareth Dillon, Conor Boyle, Craig Rogers; Paul Cahillane, Brian McCormack, Ricky Maher.
Subs used: Brian Glynn for Craig Rogers 45mins, Scott Lawless for Maher 53mins.
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