Rhode 0-07  Mullinalaghta 1-06

St. Columba’s of Mullinalaghta are 60 minutes away from becoming the first ever Longford club to contest a Leinster senior football final after they came through a real war of attrition in Tullamore this afternoon, edging out Offaly kingpins Rhode by two points.

In a low scoring but absorbing contest, the Longford men were deserving winners as they brought a ferocious intensity and a massive will to win. Rhode played their part in a tense battle but they were trumped by Mullinalaghta’s extra touch of class, while also struggling to deal with the loss of county star Brian Darby, who received a straight red card midway through the first half.

A Jayson Matthews goal on 39 minutes proved the crucial score as he reacted well to a shot that came off the crossbar.

The game struggled to come to life in the early stages and it took all of seven minutes for Jayson Matthews to open the scoring for the Longford men. With Rhode struggling to find roads through the defence, Mullinalaghta added a second from an expertly taken Rian Brady free as they led two points to no score after 15 minutes.

Rhode were then dealt a major blow when Brian Darby was shown what looked to be a harsh straight red card after a clash with James McGivney on 18 minutes.

This seemed to spring Rhode to life and after Darren Garry got their first score after 21 minutes, Niall McNamee followed that up with a routine free to leave the sides level after 23 minutes.

The low scoring and dogged trend continued for the rest of the half with Rhode actually going in front on 28 minutes before a well taken Rian Brady point with the left foot levelled matters just before the break. Rhode got the opening score of the second half through a Niall McNamee free to take the lead but a series of key moments were about to unfold.

Anton Sullivan had a goal disallowed on 38 minutes for a square ball and with the next attack; Mullinalaghta came down the field and hit the net through Jayson Matthews. Anton Sullivan and Gary Rogers traded scores within a minute of each other before a Niall McNamee free on 47 minutes left only one between them as the Longford men hung on to a 1-04 to 0-06 lead.

Coming down the stretch into the final 10 minutes, Mullinalaghta secured a crucial score through John Keegan to put them two ahead, as the energy sapping game began to take its toll on the players.

With a minute of normal time to go, Donal McElligott raided forward from the half back line and with the goal at his mercy, he blazed over the bar to put the three in a row Longford champions three points up.

With six minutes of injury time to come, they were not over the line just yet. As Rhode pushed for a goal, they lost Niall McNamee through injury and while Ruairi McNamee did slap over a free to leave it 1-06 to 0-07, that goal they craved eluded them as Mullinalaghta showed their grit to see out the extended period of injury time.

Rhode: Ken Garry; Eoin Rigney, Jake Kavanagh, James McPadden; Darren Garry (0-01), Brian Darby, Niall Darby; Alan McNamee, Conor McNamee; Paul McPadden (0-01), Paraic Sullivan, Dylan Kavanagh; Ruairi McNamee (0-01f), Anton Sullivan (0-01), Niall McNamee (0-03f).

Subs: Shane Lowry for Paraic Sullivan 56 mins, Mark Rigney for Anton Sullivan 63 mins, Gareth McNamee for Niall McNamee 64 mins.

Mullinalaghta: Patrick Rogers; Simon Cadam, Patrick Fox, Francis Mulligan; Donal McElligott (0-01), Shane Mulligan, Conan Brady; David McGivney, John Keegan (0-01); Gary Rogers (0-01), James McGivney, Aidan McElligott; Jayson Matthews (1-01), Rian Brady (0-02, 0-01 free), Brendan Fox.

Subs: Michael Cunningham for Donal McElligott temp 34-38 mins, Michael Cunningham for Brendan Fox 40 mins, Conor McElligott for Jayson Matthews 63 mins.

Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath)