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In an era of Dublin Leinster dominance, a chance for Kildare or Westmeath to reign

Moorefield and St Loman’s get set to clash in today’s Leinster final.

Will it be Moorefield or St Loman's celebrating today?
Will it be Moorefield or St Loman's celebrating today?
Image: INPHO

ON A MID November Sunday afternoon in Aughrim, it was the outcome that sent shockwaves reverberating around the GAA club football landscape.

St Vincent’s had stamped their authority on Dublin football again this autumn by carrying off the spoils for the fourth time in five years.

On the three previous occasions since 2013 that they had moved onto Leinster, the Marino outfit had cleared away provincial opponents as well.

And yet they were tripped up this year at the quarter-final hurdle, Rathnew belying their tag as rank outsiders by fashioning a four-point victory.

When the initial shock died down, the consequences of the result were clear. This Leinster SFC club race had blown open and a golden opportunity had been created for someone to seize the prize.

Today in Portlaoise that opportunity arises for Kildare’s Moorefield and Westmeath’s St Loman’s.

Neither Daryl Flynn (Moorefield) or Paul Sharry (St Loman’s) needed to be reminded of the significance of this occasion.

“They were obviously the raging hot favourites for the All-Ireland, never mind Leinster,” remarked Flynn.

“So the four teams that were left, were probably evenly matched after Vincent’s were gone. We all knew we had a good chance of winning it from there on in.”

“It’d be similar if Dublin got beaten in the first round of the Leinster championship,” stated Sharry.

“It’s not offensive or anything like that but we’d view this game as winnable no more than they (Moorefield) wll view it as winnable. It’s a 50-50.

‘If we were going in against Vincent’s, they’d raging hot favourites and we’d be underdogs.”

Dublin clubs are the clear leaders in accumulating 21 titles in this competition and that dominance has become more pronounced in recent times.

The Dublin champions have won the last five crowns and eight of the last ten finals. In the two years over the last decade where the Dublin representatives did not triumph, it was Westmeath’s Garrycastle who defeated them with a 2009 semi-final win over Ballyboden St-Enda’s and a 2011 final win against St Brigid’s.

With no Dublin club in the last four this year, the notion of this being a huge chance was hammered home by the absence of two other clubs. For the last five years Portlaoise and Rhode have shared out the tales of heartbreak of being beaten in Leinster finals.

Both are hugely experienced outfits. Portlaoise have won ten of the last eleven Laois senior finals, claimed Leinster decider victories in 2004 and 2009 but lost out since then in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

Rhode have triumphed nine times in the last 14 seasons in Offaly but have been luckless in their five Leinster final appearances, most recently in 2014 and last December.

In a forecast of likely winners in the event of a Dublin outfit being knocked out, both Portlaoise and Rhode would have ranked high. Yet when the clubs met in the first round Portlaoise won by three points and then they were subsequently pipped by a single point by Moorefield.

And so this afternoon in O’Moore Park Moorefield will square off against St Loman’s  in pursuit of silverware, the first Kildare Westmeath battle at this stage of the championship. Neither county has a rich history of victories – Moorefield in 2006 and Raheens in 1981 serving as the moments of Kildare glory, while Garrycastle are the solitary Westmeath champions from 2011.

It can’t be argued that either of today’s finalists lack experience though. Moorefield have won three of the last five Kildare senior football crowns, while St Loman’s have been Westmeath kingpins four times in that same time frame.

Both clubs are urban outfits who have town neighbours that challenge them and ensure a fierce rivalry is maintained. In Westmeath St Loman’s have seen Mullingar Shamrocks win the 2012 county final and lose another three deciders since 2010. Moorefield compete in Newbridge for players with Sarsfields, the Lilywhite champions in 2012, 2015 and 2016.

St Loman’s county stars Sharry and John Heslin know from their Westmeath experiences the difficulty in breaking the Dublin stranglehold to reign in Leinster. Moorefield’s Ronan Sweeney and Daryl Flynn can relate having spent enough days in action for Kildare trying to bring down the Dubs.

This is a novel Leinster final and both clubs will be hugely keen to make that breakthrough.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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