An excellent second-half display that saw them outscore the Kildare champions Moorefield by 1-5 to just two points propelled Portlaoise back to the Leinster Club Final for the second consecutive year.
The goal from captain Bruno McCormack just after the restart was the crucial score as it gave Portlaoise the lead and they were never headed for the remainder of a knock-down, drag out fight between two heavyweight sides.
Portlaoise could easily have had three further goals but they butchered two golden opportunities after cutting through the Moorefield defence while Paul Cahillane was unlucky to see his goalbound shot deflected onto the post.
Defensively Portlaoise were excellent in the second-half as they cut down on the number of fouls which handed Moorefield all of their six first-half points. The Kildare champions’ finishing from open play was appalling throughout as they only managed one point from play. A lot of this was down to pressure on the shooter from Portlaoise but even when they had time and space, the Moorefield forwards were simply unable to find the target.
In the first-half the visitors made headway by running at the heart of the Portlaoise defence and drawing fouls which they converted into six points from frees. After half-time, and after some astute tactical switches, Portlaoise were far more disciplined at the back conceding very few frees and this closed off Moorefield’s only source of scores.
Cahir Healy was at the centre of the strong defensive showing in particular in the second-half when he marked the dangerous Ronan Sweeney out of the game.
In front of a vocal home support who were grouped together in the centre of the stand as the terrace in O’Moore Park temporarily closed, Portlaoise made a flying start to the game with three points inside the first five minutes.
Captain Brian McCormack opened the scoring after 18 seconds and points from Craig Rogers and Brian Glynn followed as Portlaoise dominated the early exchanges.
However as the half progressed, Moorefield began to get the upper hand around the middle of the field and that gave them the platform to get back in the game.
Adam Tyrrell opened their account after eight minutes and they were almost in for a goal soon after but Cahir Healy made a crucial interception in front of his own goal to keep his side in front. From the 8th to the 20th minute, Portlaoise rarely managed to get out of their own half as Tyrrell and Ronan Sweeney tacked on points to put Moorefield 0-5 to 0-3 ahead.
Moorefield were more precise and more incisive and were full value for their lead as Portlaoise struggled to stem the tide. Paul Cahillane pulled one back for the home side on one of their rare forays forward but that was cancelled out before half-time with Sweeney making it 0-6 to 0-4.
The first-half had been a battle in the cold, damp but calm conditions and it almost turned into a full scale war with tempers flaring as the teams headed for the tunnel with several players wrestling and exchanging pleasantries.
Tempers cooled during the interval but Portlaoise came out red hot after the restart. They instantly put Moorefield under pressure and after Paul Cahillane and Brian Smith had conspired to waste a glorious goal chance, Cahillane capitalised on an error in the Moorefield defence to put Bruno McCormack through and the team captain made no mistake finishing to the empty net.
McCormack had hauled Portlaoise back into it the week before against Longford Slashers and he added a point soon after to put Portlaoise two point ahead.
Ronan Sweeney pulled one back for Moorefield after 40 minutes but apart from that score it was all Portlaoise and Paul Cahillane came within inches of adding a second goal when his shot was deflected onto the post.
Michael Nolan added a point from a long range free and after Cahillane and Smith had again conspired to waste another goal chance, Barry Fitzgerald lofted over a point to put Portlaoise three ahead.
Moorefield hit back with their only point from play from substitute Keith Duane but Portlaoise were not to be denied and they closed out the game with two sublime late points.
The first came when Bruno McCormack somehow flicked a ball from Paul Cahillane straight into the hands of Craig Rogers who pointed and they rounded off the win with a peach of a point from Cahillane who the ball over from a narrow angle wide on the right.
SCORERS - Portlaoise: Brian McCormack 1-2 (0-1f); Paul Cahillane 0-2; Craig Rogers 0-2; Brian Glynn 0-1; Barry Fitzgerald 0-1; Michael Nolan 0-1f. Moorefield: Ronan Sweeney 0-5f; Adam Tyrrell 0-2f; Keith Duane 0-1
PORTLAOISE: Michael Nolan; Malachy McNulty, Cahir Healy, Brian Mulligan; David Seale, Paul Cotter, Tommy Fitzgerald; Stuart Nerney, Kieran Lillis; Brian Glynn, Conor Boyle, Craig Rogers; Paul Cahillane, Brian McCormack, Brian Smith. Subs: Eoin Whelan for Malachy McNulty (15mins), Barry Fitzgerald for Paul Cotter (28mins), Adrian Kelly for Stuart Nerney (51mins), Kevin Fitzpatrick for Brian Smith (55mins
MOOREFIELD: Tom Kinsella; Liam Callaghan, Ger Naughton, Padraig O’Flynn; Ryan Houlihan, Ross Glavin, James Lonergan; Daryl Flynn, Aaron Mullins; Kevin Murnaghan, Patrick Murray, Adam Tyrrell; Niall Hurley Lynch, Ronan Sweeney, Ciaran Kelly. Subs: David Whyte for Niall Hurley Lynch (HT), Keith Duane for Patrick Murray (48mins), Kevin O’Neill for Ross Glavin (50mins), Frank Hanniffy for Liam Callaghan (58mins)
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)