Rhode 1-09 Tullamore 1-07
Rhode are the Offaly senior football champions for the 30th time but despite playing by far the better football over the full hour of play in miserable conditions at Bord na Móna O'Connor Park, they almost had this win snatched from their grasp at the end by old rivals Tullamore.
Leading by six points going into second half stoppage time, they first conceded a point to Peter Fox and then coughed up possession close to goal, allowing Tullamore to work the ball in and for Aaron Leavy to find the bottom corner of the net. With the announced five minutes of stoppage time now expired, Tullamore won the next ball and dropped a long range free into the Rhode goalmouth.
In the ensuing kerfuffle, the ball was scrambled over the goal line but after consulting with his umpires, referee Marius Stones decided a free out was the correct decision, and Rhode did enough to clear their lines and secure the win.
It should never have come to that, particularly at the tail end of an incredibly one-sided second half.
The opening 30 minutes saw Tullamore play with the aid of a fiercely strong breeze, and the value of that assistance was apparent when John Moloney and Nigel Bracken fired over points from long distance. Meanwhile Rhode hard to work a lot harder to get the ball into a scoring position, though they managed to do just that and move 0-03 to 0-02 in front shortly after the water break.
Tullamore's strength and mobility through the middle came to the fore as Aaron Leavy and Ciarán Egan pushed the Blues 0-05 to 0-03 ahead at the break, but the tide quickly shifted back towards Rhode after half time, with Niall McNamee starting to hit top form close to goal.
County Champions #30 ?????????????? pic.twitter.com/St7CfhnxtU— Rhode GAA (@RhodeGAA) October 4, 2020
He and first cousin Rúairí McNamee tied up the game at 0-5 each, then two more points from Niall piled on the pressure, with the Tullamore forward line starved of good ball. A scrambled goal from Aaron Kellaghan put real distance between the sides at the start of the final quarter and Rhode simply looked to wind down the clock from there, monopolising possession and working the ball over and back across the field.
John Moloney kicked Tullamore’s first score of the half from a free in the 55th minute, but when Kelleghan added a great point off the next play, that should have been enough to see Rhode over the line.
It nearly wasn’t.
Rhode: Ken Garry; Brian Darby, Jake Kavanagh, James McPadden; Gareth McNamee, Eoin Rigney, Niall Darby; Dylan Kavanagh (0-01), Alan McNamee; Ciarán Heavey, Rúairí McNamee (0-01), Conor McNamee; Aaron Kellaghan (1-01), Niall McNamee (0-05, 0-01 mark), Anton Sullivan (0-01).
Subs: Paul McPadden for Heavey (37), Stephen Hannon for Sullivan (53), Keith Murphy for G McNamee (59), Pauric Sullivan for R McNamee (59), Darren Garry for A McNamee (60).
Tullamore: Shaun Martin; Ciarán Burns, Paul McConway, Patrick Robilliard; Kevin O’Brien, Declan Hogan, Oisín Keenan Martin; Ciarán Egan (0-01), Aaron Leavy (1-02); Nigel Bracken (0-01), Michael Brazil, Luke Plunkett; Peter Fox (0-01), John Moloney (0-02, frees), Luke Egan.
Subs: Shane Dooley for L Egan (half-time), Corey White for S Martin (47), Ger Ward for Plunkett (60).
Referee: Marius Stones (Clara).