Goals from Barry Fitzgerald and Craig Rogers gave the Laois men a seven points lead early in the second half but Moorefield responded with five consecutive points, including two each from the outstanding Ciarán Kelly and Ronan Sweeney. Impressive midfielder Daryl Flynn was dismissed four minutes from the end of normal time when shown a second yellow card for an innocuous offence but the Kildare men kept driving forward and Niall Hurley-Lynch almost snatched an equaliser at the death, fisting just wide.
Moorefield manager Jack Sheedy acknowledged that Portlaoise were “worthy winners” but was unhappy with the performance of referee Derek Fahy.
“I can’t understand the sending off and for fear of raising the temperature in Croke Park I thought Derek Fahy made a lot of very poor calls in his interpretation of the rules,” said the former Dublin star.
“He booked Daryl Flynn for the second offence and straight after that Craig Rogers committed a similar if not a worse offence and he didn’t even look at his pocket. That’s where the little bit of a grievance would come into it.
“It’s not to take away from Portlaoise; they were very worthy winners but you’d think a man of that stature in the middle of the field would have a better game and he didn’t.”
Certainly, a lot of calls went against Moorefield, particularly in the first half, and a couple of players made their thoughts known to the Longford whistler as he was escorted off the field, but as Portlaoise boss John Mulligan noted, they were awarded more frees throughout the game.
“We’re absolutely delighted and relieved” said Mulligan. “We knew we were facing a big task. We watched a few videos of them and they’re a really big powerful team. We knew there was only one way we were going to beat them. We’d have to play our skills and score goals and lucky enough we did both. We got two goals and I think we played really well.”
Portlaoise played some outstanding football in the first half in particular, with Zach Touhy – playing his last game before returning to his Aussie Rules duties with AFL side Carlton –at the centre of much of their good work.
He set up Fitzgerald for a neat goal in the 17th minute and showed tremendous speed before fisting a point later on.
Portlaoise moved 1-8 to 0-4 clear-largely tthrough the free-taking of Paul Cahillane, but late scores by Kevin Murnaghan and Patrick Murray kept the Moores in touch.
A sensational delivery by Touhy from a sideline kick on the 45m line found Rogers in splendid isolation six minutes into the second half and he slid a low shot to the net confidently.
Moorefield’s midfield dominance helped them get back into the game but they never got closer than two points.
Scores from Fitzgerald, Brian McCormack and Rogers in response kept their dogged opponents at bay.
There was one late scare though when Kelly, sent in a high delivery that was attacked by Hurley-Lynch. The substitute got his fist to the ball but could only divert it wide of the target.
PORTLAOISE: M Nolan; E Bland, C Healy, B Mulligan; K Lillis, H Coghlan, C Boyle; A Kelly, T Fitzgerald; B Glynn, B McCormack 0-2, C Rogers 1-3; P Cahillane 0-4(fs), Z Touhy 0-1, B Fitzgerald 1-1.
Subs: K Fitzpatrick for Glynn (52); C Byrne for T Fitzgerald (57).
moorefield: T Corley; L Callaghan, K O’Neill, I Lonergan; Kenny Duane, G Naughton, K Murnaghan 0-1; D Flynn, D Whyte 0-1; P Murray 0-3(1f), R Sweeney 0-3(f), C Kelly 0-4; F Hannify, J Phillips, Keith Duane 0-1.
Subs: P Wolfe 0-1 for Hanniffy (38); L Keane for Kenny Duane (41); P O’Flynn for Lonergan inj (43); N Hurley-Lynch for Keith Duane (49); C Corrigan for Phillips (60+3).
Referee: D Fahy (Longford).