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Flawless Kilmurry heading for final

Shane Hickey gets away from Portlaoise’s Aidan Fennelly.  n Michael Hogan keeps an eye on Portlaoise’s Cahir Healy.Kilmurry Ibrickane 1-14   Portlaoise 0-8

Sensational. Kilmurry Ibrickane crossed the footballing Rubicon in Limerick last Sunday on an afternoon that culminated with a Clare club reaching an All-Ireland club football final for the first time. Portlaoise’s indiscipline definitely helped but the Clare and Munster champions best ever display contributed more significantly to Kilmurry reaching the national decider on March 17 in Croke Park.

Tactically, Kilmurry out-thought Portlaoise, who were perhaps slightly complacent. Michael O’Dwyer and Noel Downes, who scored a combined 1-5 from play, largely operated in a two man full-forward line, with Johnny Daly playing a deeper role.
Blossoming in the space available in the Gaelic Grounds O’Dwyer ran riot, kicking three points from play and contributing to at least four further points, via frees won or from open play.
Downes showed that he hasn’t lost his class or big-match temperament, kicking 1-2 from play. The goal, 13 minutes into the second half and a minute after Downes had kicked his second wide, finished Portlaoise.
Barely on the field, Kilmurry substitute Mark McCarthy turned over an attempted Portlaoise break from the back before placing Downes with a precise pass.
The Kilmurry corner-forward finished low and clinically, establishing a 1-11 to 0-5 advantage.
Four minutes earlier Brian McCormack was shown a second yellow card, reducing the Leinster champions to 13 men, leaving them railing against what they believed was the injustice of it all.
Just 20 seconds after the throw-in Brian Mulligan, the manager’s son, caught Shane Hickey with a head-high tackle as the Kilmurry wing-back collected a popped pass from Stephen Moloney.
Mulligan was shown an instant red card, which was the correct decision technically, even if a yellow and a rebuke would have sufficed. That said, Mulligan would have been red carded if the incident had occurred in the 20th minute, so the referee did get the call right.
With Enda Coughlan now in the free role at centre-back, Michael O’Dwyer and Coughlan banged over Kilmurry’s opening points, although Noel Downes kicked into the keeper’s hands and Ian McInerney kicked an early wide.
McInerney soon had the winners 0-3 to 0-0 up from a 13m free won by Michael O’Dwyer after his brother Peter had made good ground.
Portlaoise seemed to settle momentarily as Paul Cahillane and Brian McCormack pointed before McInerney (free), Downes with a superb score, which involved Johnny Daly and Stephen Moloney, Michael O’Dwyer and Downes again established a 0-7 to 0-2 lead.
Moloney was involved in creating O’Dwyer’s second score with a perceptive first-time pass, after he secured a break off Peter O’Dwyer.
During the following six scoreless minutes Kilmurry showed that while they were now free-flowing in attack, they had not relinquished any of their defensive resilience, driving Portlaoise backwards as the Laois men attacked in waves. They were met with impressive, disciplined defending by players such as Mark Killeen, Darren Hickey and Martin McMahon.
Late points from Peter O’Dwyer, who swatted three Portlaoise men aside, and from an McInerney free, left Kilmurry 0-9 to 0-4 ahead at half time. McCormack and Barry Fitzgerald, from a free, had scored Portlaoise’s remaining points. Portlaoise were furious at the interval and referee Michael Duffy heard enough to realise that. Along with the sending off the Laois men were certain that Noel Downes had touched the ball on the ground in the lead-up to McInerney’s late pointed free.
A minute into the second half Michael O’Dwyer scored his third point, playing a one-two with Noel Downes and flattening Portlaoise’s Malachy McNulty as he drove past.
Johnny Daly pointed a free five minutes later, again won by O’Dwyer, leaving Kilmurry 0-11 to 0-4 up. Kilmurry benefited from another break when Paul Cahillane was judged to have been in the square after he netted a Kevin Fitzpatrick delivery as Dermot O’Brien left his line.
Two minutes later, Portlaoise lost McCormack to a second yellow card and when Downes netted, the game was up, with Kilmurry now 1-11 to 0-5 ahead, 17 minutes from full time.
McInerney pointed a 45, Daly a free and Odran O’Dwyer notched a point from play, to finish Kilmurry’s scoring. O’Dwyer also picked up a yellow card and became involved in some unnecessary physical exchanges as the game was won at that stage.
Cahillane, Barry Fitzgerald and Cahir Healy completed Portlaoise’s tally.
Nobody could quibble with the man of the match award going to Michael O’Dwyer, who had an outstanding game. Further down field the full-back line excelled, with Martin McMahon superb, while Peter O’Dwyer again ruled midfield, with Paul O’Connor working very hard and astutely beside him.
Stephen Moloney excelled at wing-forward, picking up several breaks and delivering quality ball, while Ian McInerney’s free taking was top class. Johnny Daly created space and worked hard in his role as a deep lying full-forward, which after a poor first half, where he had trouble keeping tabs on Cahir Healy at centre-back, Michael Hogan improved after half-time. Noel Downes was back to his mercurial best at corner-forward and even bear-hugged Micheál McDermott after his substitution.

Kilmurry Ibrickane: Dermot O’Brien, Darren Hickey, Mark Killeen, Martin McMahon; Shane Hickey, Enda Coughlan (captain), Evan Talty; Peter O’Dwyer and Paul O’Connor; Michael Hogan, Ian McInerney, Stephen Moloney, Noel Downes, Johnny Daly, Michael O’Dwyer.
Subs: Mark McCarthy for Stephen Moloney (43), Odran O’Dwyer for Noel Downes (45) and Brendan Moloney for Evan Talty (57).
Scorers: Noel Downes 1-2, Ian McInerney 0-4, (0-3f & 0-1 ’45), Michael O’Dwyer 0-3, Johnny Daly 0-2f, Enda Coughlan, Peter O’Dwyer & Odran O’Dwyer 0-1 each.
Wides: 5
Frees won: 21
45’s: 1
Yellow cards: Martin McMahon, Michael Hogan and Odran O’Dwyer. 
Portlaoise: Michael Nolan, Eoin Bland, Kevin Fitzpatrick, Malachy McNulty; Brian Mulligan, Cahir Healy, Kieran Lillis; Aidan Fennell and Brian McCormack (captain); Craig Rogers, Barry Fitzgerald, Brian Glynn, Paul Cahillane, Colm Byrne, Conor Boyle.
Subs: Thomas Fitzgerald for Colm Byrne (half–time), Brian Smith for Brian Glynn (42), Jack Fennell for Conor Boyle (48) and Peter McNulty for Paul Cahillane (54).
Scorers: Paul Cahillane 0-3 (0-2f), Brian McCormack 0-2, Barry Fitzgerald 0-2f & Cahir Healy 0-1.
Wides: 4
Frees won: 21
Yellow cards: Brian McCormack, Craig Rogers and Eoin Bland.
Red cards: Brian Mulligan and Brian McCormack.
n Referee: Michael Duffy, Sligo.

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