Moorefield and Portlaoise primed for Leinster football quarter-final
Fixture brings two of the most prolific county champions of the last decade together
Moorefield manager Ross Glavin: “Everyone knows that Portlaoise are an excellent side and they will relish coming to Newbridge.” Photograph: Inpho
Neighbours can be defined by distance, and no distance can keep old friends apart. Only right then that Moorefield and Portlaoise renew close acquaintances in Sunday’s AIB Leinster football quarter-final – exactly 12 months on from the same stage last year.
Two of the most prolific county champions of the last decade – Moorefield have won five of the last nine Kildare titles, while Portlaoise have now won 11 of the last 12 in Laois – the tables are somewhat turned this time: Moorefield won a dramatic Leinster title last year, overturning a five-point deficit in injury time to defeat St Loman’s of Mullingar by a single point.
They did something similar against Portlaoise in the quarter-final, trailing their county neighbours by three points going into the last 10 minutes – on Portlaoise’s home ground too – before the O’Connor brothers Éanna and Cian closed out the show for Moorefield, watched on by their father and former Kerry football manager Jack O’Connor, who also works in an advisory role with the Newbridge club.
The fact Moorefield went on to win the provincial title no doubt also stung Portlaoise, leaving them suitably primed for Sunday’s rematch. With their seven titles, last won in 2009, they’re the most successful club in Leinster along with St Vincent’s; last year St Vincent’s were surprisingly taken out in the quarter-final by Wicklow champions Rathnew, thus opening up the championship a little more, before Moorefield made it their own.
That 2017 final against St Loman’s, originally delayed because of bad weather, was played just seven days before Christmas, but after winning that title for only the second time, and first since 2006, Moorefield are still left with a sense of unfinished business after losing the All-Ireland semi-final to outright champions Corofin, in a low-scoring 1-6 to 0-6.
Indeed they’ve effectively played and trained through both seasons, Moorefield manager Ross Glavin deciding to keep the momentum going as much as possible, which so far they’ve certainly done. After defending the Kildare title by beating Athy, they were out the following week, beating Mullingar Shamrocks, to set up this Sunday’s quarter-final.
Moorefield will also have home advantage in Newbridge this time, the two-week build-up also welcomed by Glavin: “Everyone knows that Portlaoise are an excellent side and they will relish coming to Newbridge,” he said. “We had a very short turnaround time from last Sunday making the game against Shamrocks a tricky one, just seven days after winning a county championship, so that will certainly be a big help to us and give us an opportunity to assess any injuries and get them cleared up before the game”.
Defender James Murray was called into Cian O’Neill’s Kildare team this season in the aftermath of the club run, while still central to the Moorefield team are two former Kildare county players Ronan Sweeney and Daryl Flynn. Now aged 38, Sweeney is showing no signs of slowing down, chipping in with a trademark score against Mullingar Shamrocks.
It was also Sweeney who threw them a lifeline in the Leinster final last year with his goal in the 61st minute, before Moorefield kicked three further points, the winner from Kevin Murnaghan with the last move of the game.
Sweeney was also part of O’Neill’s Kildare selection team for 2018, along with former Kildare goalkeeper Enda Murphy, but O’Neill last month announced a shake-up. Sweeney and Murphy stepping down, to be replaced by Tom Cribbin of Clane and Karl O’Dwyer of the St Laurence’s club, son of former Kerry, Kildare, Wicklow and Clare manager Mick O’Dwyer.