Niall McNamee’s late winner hands Rhode 31st Offaly championship

Late mark leads to winning point in grandstand finish

Rhode 1-9 Tullamore 0-11

Niall McNamee, who else, hit a 59th minute winner as Rhode claimed their 31st Offaly senior football championship.

It is their seventh triumph since 2012, and this second half comeback in front of 4,409 spectators at O’Connor Park denied Tullamore achieving back-to-back titles for the first time since the 1920s.

Ruairí McNamee’s 48th minute goal, which put Rhode 1-7 to 0-8 ahead, was a crucial score in the contest as it came at a stage when Tullamore appeared to be in the ascendency.


Rhode tagged on a point moments later to push their lead out = further but Tullamore responded like champions and scored the next three points to draw level by the 57th minute.

It set up a grandstand finish and cometh the hour, cometh the man.

Niall McNamee (36) made a dart out from the full-forward line and his run was spotted by Anton Sullivan, whose exquisite pass was popped right to the Rhode captain’s chest like a magnet landing on a fridge door.

McNamee immediately jabbed his hand skyward to indicate he was taking the mark and made no mistake with the subsequent kick. Tullamore pushed hard for an equaliser in the closing stages but when Niall McNamee showed incredible vision to spread a cross-field free to the unmarked Keith Murphy in injury-time, there was a sense Rhode’s name was going back on the Dowling Cup.

This was the third consecutive year the sides had met in the county final – Rhode won in 2020 and Tullamore were victorious in 2021, after a replay. The reaction to last year’s final was an itch Rhode were determined to scratch.

“This is probably one of the sweetest ones of all time,” said Alan McNamee afterwards.

“I suppose we were written off after last year. I remember we were reading in the paper that people were saying it was like a changing of the guard in Offaly football and there is no doubt that was a huge driving force for us this year.”

Alan McNamee was 40 in February and yesterday he won an incredible 13th senior medal – confirming his status as the most decorated player in Offaly club football history. His brother, Niall, has won a dozen.

Rhode also extend their lead on top of the roll of honour with this 31st crown, now three ahead of Tullamore’s 28.

The game itself was played at a pedestrian pace during the first half, with Tullamore going in at the interval with a 0-5 to 0-3 lead. Tullamore had played with the wind in the opening half but with Rhode funnelling players back to pack the space behind their 45 metre line, Tullamore often had to shoot from distance and were guilty of hitting eight wides in the first half.

At the other end of the field Rhode were finding chances hard to come by and all three of their points in the first half came from McNamee frees.

The sides were actually level on 0-3 entering first half injury-time, but two converted frees by Harry Plunkett gave the holders a two-point advantage at the break.

Tullamore still held a two-point lead midway through the second half when the turning point of the game arrived. The impressive Sullivan reduced the gap to the minimum in the 47th minute after Rhode benefitted from a bad Tullamore kickout.

From the resulting restart Alan McNamee brilliantly won possession in the air and, spotting a one-on-one situation inside with his cousin Ruairí McNamee and Johnny Moloney, he launched a rocket towards the edge of the square. Ruairí swiped the ball from Moloney’s grasp, turned in on goal and did his best John Travolta impression with a sidestep that left goalkeeper Corey White flat-footed and allowed the Rhode forward slide the ball home to an empty net, 1-7 to 0-8.

“The first thing that popped into my head was the 40-year anniversary of Seamus Darby, the week that was in it and Ruairí scores a goal from a high, long dropping ball,” said Rhode manager Declan Gorman.

“The right man in the right place and a cool customer, he took it fierce well.”

Tullamore did respond and the game was level again coming down the straight, but Niall McNamee’s well-worked mark would prove to be the winner.

“When you’re underdogs and it’s probably something that we haven’t experienced before, it makes it a little bit sweeter when you’re not supposed to win but we did,” beamed Gorman.

Rhode will now face the eventual Meath champions in a Leinster club SFC quarter-final at the start of November.

RHODE: K Garry; B Darby, J Kavanagh, J McPadden (0-1); K Murphy, C McNamee, G McNamee; D Kavanagh, A McNamee; P Sullivan, R McNamee (1-0), C Heavy; A Kellaghan (0-1), A Sullivan (0-2), N McNamee (0-5, four frees, one mark).

Subs: P McPadden for P Sullivan (ht); S Hannon for Heavy (40 mins); D Garry for G McNamee (61 mins).

TULLAMORE: C White; P McConway, N Bracken (0-1), D Hogan (0-1); K O’Brien, J Moloney (0-2), D McDaid; M Brazil, A Leavy (0-1); C Egan, D Egan, H Plunkett (0-5, four frees); C Egan, L Plunkett (0-1), L Egan.

Subs: C Burns for C Egan (42 mins); D Fox for McConway (50 mins).

REFEREE: Fergal Smyth (Kilclonfert)

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times