Rhode (Offaly) 4-10 Navan O’Mahonys (Meath) 0-13

Rhode’s greater goalscoring power was critical in O’Connor Park as they advanced to a Leinster semi-final clash with Moorefield in two weeks' time thanks to a 4-10 to 0-13 victory over Navan O’Mahonys.

The Meath champions had the aid of the breeze in the first half but two Glenn O’Connell goals, the second from a penalty, gave Rhode a 2-03 to 0-08 interval lead.

O’Mahonys dominated the third quarter but failed to hit the front at any stage and the Offaly men made them pay late on when Niall McNamee and Niall Darby struck goals with the last two scores of the tie. 

The final score certainly flattered Rhode in the sense that Navan O’Mahonys enjoyed plenty of possession and territory throughout this tie, however, as had been the case in Rhode’s first round win over St Patrick’s of Louth, the home side were far more clinical in front of goal.

That sharpness proved to be critical as they came through long spells of playing second best and still rarely sustained too much damage in terms of scores.  

Glenn O’Connell posted their opening goal after just three minutes of play and he looked as surprised as anyone when the Navan defence backed off him and showed him a clear path to goal from 30 metres out, instead anticipating a lay-off to either Niall McNamee or Paul McPadden.

O’Connell duly accepted the gift and blasted the ball past David Quirke, and it was a score his team badly needed as they didn’t raise another flag until the 17th minute, by which time Navan had drawn level.

O’Mahonys, too, struggled to take their chances but they did hit a purple patch shortly before half-time when they finally took advantage of the wind, striking five excellent long-range points over the bar in quick succession from between 40 and 50 metres out.

Stephen Bray concluded this salvo with a brace of right-footed scores and that left Navan well poised at 0-08 to 1-02 in front.

However, a crucial swing moment went Rhode’s way on the stroke of half-time when Damien Moran was harshly adjudged to have fouled Brian Darby in the penalty area and Glenn O’Connell was given the chance to put Rhode back in front from the penalty spot.

O’Connell made no mistake with an accurate low finish and Rhode built on that momentum after the interval when Niall McNamee, Conor McNamee and Anton Sullivan (twice) all struck neat scores from play to build up a four-point lead.

Navan missed two very scorable frees in that period and it looked as if the game was slipping away from them until they rallied from the 38th minute onwards, eventually drawing level after kicking four points, including two close-range frees from Jake Regan.

Points from Anton Sullivan and O’Connell put Rhode back in front but the sending off of county under-21 midfielder Conor McNamee with five minutes to play threatened to hand Navan the initiative once again.

The home side’s defence held out, however, and they struck three times on the break in injury time, twice hitting the net through Niall McNamee and Brian Darby to round off a successful afternoon and to set up a meeting with Kildare champions Moorefield, scheduled to be played in Tullamore in a fortnight’s time.  

Rhode: K Garry; J McPadden, B Darby (1-00), J Kavanagh; C Heavey, E Rigney, E Byrne; A McNamee, C McNamee (0-01); N Darby, P Sullivan, G O’Connell (2-01, 1-00 pen); P McPadden, A Sullivan (0-04), N McNamee (1-04, 0-01 free).

Subs: R McNamee for N Darby (47), S Hannon for P McPadden (47)

Navan O’Mahonys: D Quirke; N McKeigue, B Dillon, J O’Reilly; D Smyth, S Crosby (0-02), G O’Brien; C McGuinness, D Moran; S Gillespie, D Bray, A Forde (0-02); J Regan (0-05, 0-03 frees), S Bray (0-03, 0-01 free), R Ó’Coileáin. 

Subs: I Matthews for Smyth (12), S Mac Gabhann for McGuinness (38), S Maguire for Moran (53)

Referee: John Hickey (Carlow)