Rhode reach another Leinster final but ‘this time hope to win it’

Niall McNamee was the key man in semi-final win, scoring eight of Rhode’s 12 points

Rhode 0-12 Sean O’Mahony’s 1-5

As players and supporters celebrated around him, Rhode boss Pascal Kellaghan was all too willing to proffer a reality check in Drogheda on Sunday.

The Offaly champions were impressive winners over a Sean O’Mahony’s side that had taken a significant scalp against Sarsfields last time out, but Kellaghan was already looking ahead to his side’s fifth Leinster final in 11 seasons.

No-one in Rhode needs reminding that they lost all of the previous four, and most recently to their opponents on Sunday week.

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“All we have is a crossroads and two mile either side of it, so for a club like us to have 27 Offaly titles is some achievement,’ Kellaghan said.

“This is our fifth Leinster final and this time we hope to win it, but two years ago we were well beaten by St Vincent’s, so we’ve a lot of work to do to close that gap.”

As he has been for over a decade, Niall McNamee was the inspiration behind this win.

The Faithful star put his name to eight points and oozed class, as the Offaly champions always stayed a step ahead of a gutsy O’Mahony’s side.

The first five points all came from frees as McNamee and Conor Finnegan engaged in a private shoot-out.

But Rhode carried the greater threat from general play and the hosts would have been content to reach the 20-minute mark just a point in arrears, 0-3 to 0-2.

But McNamee lofted over the first score from play and he added another free in injury-time to make it three points without reply, and chisel out a 0-5 to 0-2 lead at half-time.

Crucially, Rhode repeated the trick straight after the break, plundering three more points in quick succession.

McNamee opened the scoring before laying on a second for Brian Darby, and he converted another free to make it 0-8 to 0-2.

True to form O’Mahony’s didn’t buckle and closed the gap slightly with another Finnegan free.

Their big break came on 40 minutes when Conor Crawley was pulled down by Alan McNamee, but Stephen Fisher’s tame penalty was easily saved by Kenny Garry. O’Mahony’s did rescue a point from the situation as Finnegan broke their duck from open play, making it 0-8 to 0-4.

But Rhode were still the more potent force and after Paul McPadden had extended their lead to five, they passed up two glorious goal chances as Brendan Traynor denied Darren Garry and Ruairi McNamee in quick succession.

McPadden was on target again to cancel out a Stpehen Kilcoyne free and Rhode started to hammer home their superiority with further points from Niall and Ruriri McNamee.

Depsite his earlier miss, Fisher didn’t shirk taking a second penalty when Keith McLaughlin was pulled back, and this time he found the bottom corner to make it 0-12 to 1-5 and hand the hosts a lifeline.

But O’Mahony’s made no headway thereafter and their manager Alan Craven summed up their afternoon, and season, quite well.

“Going behind wasn’t a concern, it never is for this team, but breaking down a side as good as Rhode was the bigger issue.

“They’re a super outfit and our centre-half who was doing the man-marking job on Niall McNamee said if there’s a better footballer in the game then he’s retiring.”

Rhode also missed a penalty late on when Glenn O’Connell struck the butt of an upright, but Kellaghan felt his team could have made life easier on themselves before that.

“We could have closed the game out a lot earlier, but O’Mahony’s a are a very good team and a tenacious outfit. I think our bit of experience told in the end and all of our boys stepped up.”

RHODE: K Garry; S Sullivan, E Rigney, J McPadden; C Heavey, B Darby (0-1), N Darby; A McNamee, C McNamee; S Hannon, R McNamee (0-1), P McPadden (0-2) P Sullivan, D Garry, N McNamee (0-8, five frees). Subs: G O'Connell for S Hannon (51), G McNamee for C Heavey (59), D Kavanagh for P Sullivan (59), E Byrne for P McPadden (60).

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 (0-4, all frees), K McLaughlin, S Fisher (1-0 pen); S Kilcoyne (0-1 free), C Crawley, B McLaughlin. Subs: D Dowling for B McLaughlin (41), B Mackin for J Connolly (48), N McLaughlin for S Kilcoyne (55), P O'Brien for M Clarke (60).

Referee: J Hickey (Carlow).