Moorefield (Kildare) 1-9 Portlaoise (Laois) 0-11
A magnificent point in the fourth minute of injury time by Niall Hurley-Lynch secured a famous victory for Moorefield over Portlaoise in a pulsating game at O’Moore Park.
The home side enticed a free two minutes later to give Paul Cahillane an opportunity to rescue a game they had looked in command of for most of the second half, but the former Laois man’s effort from a very tight angle curled too early.
The Laois champions will wonder how they failed to see this out, keeping the opposition to a point, leading by three and seeming in complete control with eight minutes of normal time remaining.
The dismissal of Craig Rogers in the 53rd minute, followed by a sublime finish for a goal two minutes later by the sensational Éanna O’Connor, changed things completely.
Extra-time still looked most likely when Hurley-Lynch shot from wide on the right but his kick into the wind, just cleared the crossbar and Moorefield had prevailed.
O’Connor, whose father, the former All-ireland-winning Kerry manager Jack was in attendance to watch him and his brother Cian in action, was truly outstanding, especially in the first half when he was night on unmarkable, kicking five points, three from play.
That opening half was a fantastic affair, with high quality kick-passing and score-taking. Supporters were treated to 10 points in the first 15 minutes and if the rate of scoring dropped, the standard didn’t in the second quarter.
The teams were level six times in that first half but Portlaoise had more scoring options and kicked the last three points from Brian Mulligan, Scott Lawless and a second successful '45 by goalkeeper Graham Brody to lead 0-9 to 0-7 at the break.
The second half was much feistier and less free-flowing but no less entertaining for that.
Moorefield, who were lining out without suspended captain and vice-captain, Darryl Flynn and David Whyte, had a goal chance straight from the restart, when the long-serving Ronan Sweeney thundered through the middle and drew the cover before getting Hurley-Lynch away just to the left of goal.
The subsequent match-winner took too long to unleash his shot though and was blocked for a fruitless 45.
Moorefield showed a lot of patience in the build-up to Cian O’Connor’s neat finish that halved the gap but Portlaoise had the upper hand when Cahillane and Lawless, from a free, made it a three-point game.
Once Rogers got his second yellow card, the Kildare men upped the tempo, and crucially, O’Connor finished sublimely for his goal.
Portlaoise showed all their experience though and before Hurley-Lynch’s improbable score, had the best opportunity to finish it but their captain, Conor Boyle was blocked heroically by his Moorefield counterpart, James Murray.
There was still time for the late drama and it was Moorefield that claimed the prize of a place in the Leinster semi-final
Moorefield: T Kinsella, L Callaghan, L Healy, M Dempsey, K Murnaghan, J Murray, S Healy, R Sweeney, A Masterson (0-1), C O’Connor (0-01), E Heavey (0-1), A Tyrrell, S Dempsey, E O’Connor (1-5, 2fs), N Hurley-Lynch (0-1).
Subs: I Meehan for S Dempsey (27), A Mullins for Tyrrell inj (42), M Murray for Sweeney (46), M McDermott for Heavey (53)
Portlaoise: G Brody (0-2 45s), D Hyland (0-1), F Flanagan, D Seale, B Mulligan (0-1), K Lillis, C Finn, C Boyle (0-1), C McEvoy, G Dillon, B Carroll, B Smyth, P Cahillane (0-2), B McCormack (0-1), S Lawless (0-3, 1f)
Subs: C Rogers for Smyth (12-20, 23), P Downey for Mulligan (51)
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath)