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Saturday 22 September 2018

Long' battle to give Portlaoise Moore' momentum

AIB LEINSTER CLUB SFC SEMI-FINAL

PORTLAOISE (Laois) v MOOREFIELD (Kildare) (O'Moore Park, Tomorrow 2.0)

IT'S an age-old conundrum when it comes to assessing two evenly matched rivals. Do you favour the team that has just romped to facile victory, or back the outfit that proved itself in the midst of crisis?

Suffice to say, the respective quarter-final form graphs couldn't be further apart. Moorefield can't have discovered much about their Leinster credentials on their way to demolishing the rookie champions of Wexford, St Martin's, by 2-13 to 0-4.

In cold print, the forensics of that 15-point cakewalk make a solid case for the experienced Kildare kingpins, now under the shrewd command of Luke Dempsey.

A week later, Portlaoise travelled to Pearse Park – and duly leaked three first-half goals to Longford Slashers. Soon after half-time, they found themselves eight points adrift.

And yet the grizzled old gunslingers from 'The Town' duly embarked on a stunning comeback mission that culminated in the darkness of extra-time and one of the most heroic victories in the club's storied Leinster history. For Adrian Kelly to come off the bench and open their extra-time account so soon after losing his mother added poignancy to the moment.

What's crucial now is how Portlaoise emerge from that gruelling victory. They've had just a week to recover, so Moorefield should be considerably fresher; the counter-argument goes that the seven in-a-row Laois champions could enjoy a power-surge of self-belief.

They will need to plug the defence and raise their midfield game against Daryl Flynn and Ross Glavin; but they have home advantage, plenty of potential match-winners and recent expertise in crisis-survival.

That could prove the tie-breaker.

BOYLESPORTS ODDS: Portlaoise 10/11, Draw 13/2, Moorefield 6/5

VERDICT: Portlaoise

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