Brian McCormack believes Leinster club final opponents St Vincent’s will be adding the real footballer of the year to their line-up this weekend.
Dublin champions Vins have navigated Leinster safely so far without county star Diarmuid Connolly, who has missed their two provincial ties through suspension.
Captain and Dublin defender Ger Brennan has also sat out the majority of those two games due to a red card early in the quarter-final win over St Loman’s, and returns for the decider against Portlaoise too.
But playmaker Connolly is the player Portlaoise will be most concerned about after his inspired form all year with league and Championship winners Dublin. Former Laois player McCormack, 32, believes Connolly is the form player in the country.
“For me, Diarmuid Connolly has probably played the best football in Ireland over the last two years, he’s an unbelievable talent,” said McCormack.
“If you’re also losing someone of Ger Brennan’s talent, Dublin’s centre-back for the last few years, then it shows how strong Vincent’s are when they can still score 1-14 without them, at this time of year, in the semi-final. We know we’ve got a big problem with those boys coming back.”
Thankfully for Portlaoise, they have a full squad of players to choose from themselves. It wasn’t always that way this season with key players ruled out earlier in the year for various reasons.
County hurling ace Cahir Healy, Barry and Tommy Fitzgerald and former Celtic soccer rookie Paul Cahillane were all missing for several months. “This year, we were probably written off in our own county,” said McCormack. “We’d lost a lot of league games. Some lads were gone travelling, then a lot of the boys committed to hurling. Paul Cahillane went to America for the summer. Cahir Healy and Tommy and Barry Fitzgerald decided that they wanted to concentrate on hurling. And that’s fair enough, those lads wanted to win a county title and we’re all the one club.
“But they were big guys to be missing. Unfortunately for them, they lost the (hurling) semi-final and after that, the door was open for them to come back. It really did boost our squad.”
With a remarkable seventh county title win on the trot secured, Portlaoise are now just an hour away from securing a record eighth provincial title win. McCormack’s form has been central to the success with his move to full-forward, from where he pilfered 1-2 in seven minutes, crucial in their quarter-final extra-time win over Longford Slashers. He was once a key county man but with a young son and a demanding job, he informed then manager Liam Kearns that it wasn’t possible to combine it all. Five or so years later, he now has two young boys but works closer to home. “No, I think my time is done in there with Laois,” he said. “It’s a young man’s game. Kieran (Lillis) and Conor (Boyle) are in with Laois at the moment and the work they do, it’s just phenomenal to see the amount of effort they give.
“I don’t think it’s a runner for me.”
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