Portarlington 0-04 Kilmacud Crokes 1-12

Holders Kilmacud Crokes are on the brink of back-to-back AIB Leinster club SFC title successes after cruising through to next month's decider against The Downs.

The Dublin champions had a scare against Portarlington at the same stage, and on the same Croke Park pitch, of last season's provincial competition and required a late Paul Mannion inspired rally to progress on that occasion.

But they had no such troubles this time, leading virtually from gun to tape with an assured performance despite the injury absence of three-time All-Star Mannion while they could afford to withdraw Shane Walsh, a current All-Star, at the three-quarter mark.

Goalscorer Andrew McGowan, whose seventh minute strike put Crokes on the road to the comfortable win over the three-in-a-row Laois champions, came off as well along with player of the match Craig Dias, presumably with one eye already on next month's final.

Walsh struck three points though two of those came from placed balls and four months on from lighting up Croke Park with Galway in the All-Ireland senior final, when he memorably scored nine points, it was a lower key return.

Crokes, impressively, held Portarlington scoreless from play until the 47th minute as they produced another defensive masterclass.

Robbie Brennan made a series of changes to his Crokes lineup before throw-in, handing starts to Aidan Jones along with former inter-county duo Shane Horan and Cian O'Connor.

Shane Horan of Kilmacud Crokes in action against Cathal Bennett of Portarlington

The switches worked out nicely because while an utterly professional looking Crokes didn't exactly shoot the lights out, they were typically efficient and hit the interval with a commanding 1-05 to 0-02 lead.

Aside from the three goals they scored against both Templeogue Synge Street in the Dublin championship, and Naas last time out, that's pretty much how experienced Crokes have been going about their business all season, dominating the possession stakes and winning most of their games with relatively low tallies.

They paid Portarlington full respect because aside from last year's provincial meeting, they were also mindful of the 3-19 that Martin Murphy's side put on the board against Palatine in the recent provincial quarter-finals, a result that followed Port's 1-10 to 0-10 Round 1 win over Wexford's Castletown.

The Crokes backs held Portarlington scoreless from play for the entire first-half, free-taker Colm Murphy sniping fifth and 24th minute scores from placed balls.

Crokes got the perfect start when McGowan, part of the Dublin squad last season, netted in the seventh minute, putting them into a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Walsh then added a point before playing a precise pass to captain Shane Cunningham who claimed the Mark and converted. Dara Mullin, twice, and Cunningham again then scored to leave the Glenalbyn side 1-05 to 0-01 ahead.

Already it looked ominous for the underdogs who needed an injection of inspiration, and quickly as they hit the interval trailing by six points.

Crokes lost Jones for 10 minutes following a black card late in the first-half, for a drag down on Rioghan Murphy, so a window of opportunity presented itself for Portarlington but they couldn't take advantage and conceded two more points during that sin-bin period.

Adam Ryan eventually hit Portarlington's first point from play early in the final quarter and the attacker added a second in the 56th minute. But that was it for Port' who were powerless to prevent Crokes finishing with gusto, O'Connor, Paraic Purcell and dual player Brian Sheehy all stroking over late scores to gloss the scoreline.

Kilmacud Crokes: Conor Ferris; Micheal Mullin, Theo Clancy, Dan O'Brien; Aidan Jones, Rory O'Carroll, Andrew McGowan (1-00); Craig Dias, Ben Shovlin; Shane Horan, Shane Cunningham (0-02, 0-01 mark), Cian O'Connor (0-01); Hugh Kenny, Dara Mullin (0-03, 0-01f, 0-01 mark), Shane Walsh (0-03, 0-01f, 0-01m).

Subs used: Tom Fox for Walsh 44, Paraic Purcell (0-02) for Horan 46, Cillian O'Shea for Cunningham 51, Jeff Kenny for McGowan 56, Brian Sheehy(0-01) for Dias 58.

Portarlington: Scott Osbourne; Cathal Bennett, Diarmuid Bennett, Alex Mohan; Stuart Mulpeter, Robbie Piggott, Jason Moore; Paddy O'Sullivan, Sean Byrne; Adam Ryan (0-02), Ronan Coffey, Rioghan Murphy; Jake Foster, David Murphy, Colm Murphy (0-02, 0-02f).

Subs used: Darragh Galvin for Coffey 43, Darragh Slevin for Mulpeter 47, Eoin McCann for Foster 50, Colin Slevin for Galvin 52, Johnny Fullam for Ryan 62.

Referee: David Hickey (Carlow).