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Friday 20 April 2018

This was our goal maintains Moores saviour

Moorefield’s Kevin Murnaghan in action against St Loman’s Paul Sharry during last Sunday’s AIB Leinster Club SFC final at O’Moore Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Moorefield’s Kevin Murnaghan in action against St Loman’s Paul Sharry during last Sunday’s AIB Leinster Club SFC final at O’Moore Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Not that they dared claim to have predicted how it would transpire, but Moorefield were adamant on Sunday that their crowning as this year's AIB Leinster club senior football champions was precisely their aim from a long way back.

Having won six of the last 12 county titles, their sights were trained a little higher this season, it seems.

"That's what we said at the start of the year, that we wanted a provincial title," said their final match-winner, Kevin Murnaghan after their unlikely Leinster final comeback was completed.

"The last few years we've been settling for county titles but Ross (Glavin), from the start of the year, got it in our heads - Leinster and then kick on to an All-Ireland.

"We weren't cocky or anything. We were just confident in our lads."

Quite how confident the Newbridge outfit were on Sunday in O'Moore Park after 59 minutes of their final, when they trailed St Loman's by five points, we'll never know.

But the important part was that, incredibly, they pulled off one of the greatest comeback of this GAA year on its final day.

And Murnaghan was on hand to play the willing, if somewhat unlikely hero.

"I was actually surprised Éanna dropped it short," he recalls of Éanna O'Connor's late free, the only one the Kerry man didn't strike sweetly all day.

As it went, his miscue dropped perfectly into the airspace of Moorefield icon Ronan Sweeney, who palmed the ball back across goal to Murnaghan.

"Normally Éanna wouldn't drop it short. I saw 'Roli' there and I knew he was going to hit it back in.

"Lucky enough I was there. It bounced towards me and I actually thought - goal! - but I said 'no, I'll play it safe'.

"So I turned and kicked it over the bar. It was probably the right thing to do.

"I was surprised I had that much space, to be honest. That late in the game, I was surprised."

It was a surprising sort of day.

Moorefield looked a discernably better team at half-time, leading by three, but dominating possession to an even greater extent than that.

Yet with six minutes left, they trailed by six after being trampled by St Loman's upon the resumption and hemmed into an uncomfortable patch of space in front of their own goal.

"We knew at half-time they were going to come out flying at us," Murnaghan reflected.

"They were down by three. We told ourselves they were going to come at us in the first ten or 15 minutes but we just couldn't win a kickout.

"They were dominating the breaks. We made mistakes for the goals. But we just kept going. That's what we had to do."

What made their comeback all the more remarkable was the fact that the atmosphere in Portlaoise had already turned into a celebratory one for St Loman's.

Their supporters cheered every play.

They took the cards necessary to slow Moorefield's gallop and greeted every score like it was another insurance policy.

Attacking

"They were playing around with it a bit much around midfield," Murnaghan noted.

"And maybe if they kept attacking they would have won it."

Afterwards, Jack O'Connor celebrated with his two sons, Éanna - who kicked eight points - and Cian, who was suspended after being sent off against Rathnew in the semi-final.

Both have been with Moorefield since 2014 but this season has been a sort of breakout campaign for Éanna who, in all likelihood, will be named AIB's player of the Leinster championship early next year in advance of their All-Ireland semi-final with either Corofin or Fulham Gaels.

He is also being tipped for a run with Cian O'Neill's Kildare team whenever Moorefield's run ends and he adamant now that he has settled in his new environs.

"I see the boys four times a week and again outside of training. I feel really at home there," O'Connor stressed afterwards.

"They're a very clannish club, Moorefield. I'm very proud to put on the jersey every time.

"Moorefield are very clannish, very honest, very welcoming people. I felt right at home the second I went training with them.

"I've great friends with the club and it's great to win something with your buddies," O'Connor added, "and hopefully we can drive on from here."

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