Sean O’Mahony's 1-05 Rhode 0-12
Sean O’Mahony’s fairytale run through the Leinster club championships came to an end this afternoon when their attack misfired in the face of a professional performance from Offaly champions Rhode, who prevailed by 0-12 to 1-5 at O’Raghallaigh’s GAA grounds in Drogheda.
On a day when very few attackers made consistent inroads into the opposition defence, the brilliance of Niall McNamee was the main difference between the sides as the county star shot eight points and played a significant role in three of the other four.
The home side will wonder what might have happened had Stephen Fisher been able to find a way past Rhode goalkeeper Ken Garry with a 43rd-minute penalty, when a goal would have cut the gap to just two points.
Fisher did raise a green flag with a penalty in the closing minutes but by then Rhode had built up a sufficiently large cushion to ease over the end line and secure their four-point win.
The first half didn’t offer a lot to neutral supporters in search of an open, free scoring contest. Just one of the seven points scored were from play as Rhode built up a 0-05 to 0-02 interval lead, with McNamee and Conor Finnegan the only two scorers.
O’Mahony’s looked to apply a long-ball game and exploit the physical presence of Conor Crawley close to goal, but he was well-marshalled by ex-Offaly defender Shane Sullivan.
Seven minutes into the first half the sides were tied at 0-2 apiece but seven minutes into the second Rhode led thanks to six unanswered points, Brian Darby adding his name to the exclusive list of scorers with an excellent finish after he burst forward out of defence in trademark fashion.
Finnegan broke that duck with another free and when Alan McNamee dragged down Crawley, O’Mahony’s had a glorious chance to get right back into contention.
Ken Garry came up trumps for Rhode with a diving save to deny Fisher, and Rhode duly stepped up the intensity once more through scores from Paul McPadden (2), Niall McNamee and Rúairí McNamee.
There was still time for two more penalties – Fisher made up for his previous miss with a good finish, while Glen O’Connell struck the post with a late Rhode effort, a miss that meant that the Offaly club failed to register a goal for the first time in their last seven championship starts.
That will be of little concern to manager Paschal Kelleghan, however, after his charges secured their fifth Leinster final slot in ten years.
Instead he’ll be looking to try and plot the downfall of St Vincent’s and succeed in the provincial decider, the stage at which their previous four sides all fell short.
Rhode: K Garry; E Rigney, S Sullivan, J McPadden; C Heavey, B Darby (0-01), N Darby; A McNamee, C McNamee; S Hannon, R McNamee (0-01), P McPadden (0-02); P Sullivan, D Garry, N McNamee (0-08, 0-05 frees).
Subs: G O’Connell for S Hannon (50 min); D Kavanagh for P Sullivan (57 min); G McNamee for C Heavey (57 min); E Byrne for P McPadden (60 min).
Sean O’Mahony’s: B Traynor; K Murphy, R Byrne, M Clarke; L Dullaghan, J O’Brien, J Connolly; C Martin, S Brennan; C Finnegan (0-04, 0-03 frees), K McLaughlin, S Fisher (1-00, pen); S Kilcoyne (0-01), C Crawley, B McLaughlin.
Subs: D Dowling for B McLaughlin (40 min); B Mackin for J Connolly (48 min); N McLaughlin for S Kilcoyne (55 min); P O’Brien for M Clarke (60 min).
Referee: J Hickey (Carlow).