IT’S 27 years since these two traditional superpowers of Offaly football have clashed in the final, so it’s no surprise that there’s huge interest in the meeting of Ferbane and Rhode in the Tullamore Court Hotel SFC final this Sunday at O’Connor Park.
Rhode are seeking their fourth title this decade and 27th in total – a victory will put them joint-top on the Roll of Honour with Tullamore.
Ferbane secured the last of their 11 titles in 1994, which marked the end of a glorious period of dominance which produced six Dowling Cup triumphs in nine years.
Leinster Club Champions 30 years ago, the west Offaly club are on the march again as the progress made at underage level is now paying off in the adult grades.
But Rhode enter the final as favourites. It’s somewhat surprising that they haven’t secured back-to-back titles since 2006, but they have developed a trend of dominating every second year since then, with victories in ’08, ’10, ’12 and ’14. Last year, they lost out to Edenderry in the decider by two points.
Managed now by Pascal Kellaghan and with Brian Darby and Conor McNamee as joint-captains, Rhode have experience in every sector of the field. Niall McNamee, as usual, has been in top form all season while most of their starting 15 has inter-county experience, including the Sullivan brothers – Anton, Shane and Paraic – Niall Darby and Eoin Rigney. Their longest serving player, Alan McNamee, is now seeking his ninth Offaly SFC medal.
Ferbane will be led out on Sunday by Kieran McManus and are managed by Padraig Egan. Joe Maher and Shane Nally are key players up front while Colin Egan and Oisin Kelly are among the talented dual players in their ranks. Elsewhere, there are a lot of players who have impressed at minor level and are now settled into the senior side.
Ferbane have enjoyed an impressive route to the final – group victories over Ballycumber, Gracefield and St Rynagh’s were all by comfortable margins and they shocked Tullamore in the semi-final by 3-10 to 1-10.
Likewise, Rhode haven’t encountered too many problems so far, with group wins over Tullamore, Edenderry and Clara followed by a 1-11 to 1-7 defeat of a gallant Gracefield team in the semi-final.
This is a game that will bring memories flooding back for a lot of Offaly GAA fans, who will remember some great clashes between these clubs in the past. Both parishes have produced some of the greatest footballers the county has ever produced, including All-Stars and All-Ireland medal winners.
Hopefully both teams will play to potential on Sunday in front of what should be a massive crowd at O’Connor Park. Throw-in is at 3pm and the curtain-raiser will be the Tullamore Court Hotel Minor FC final between Ferbane/Belmont and St Broughan’s.
There will be an extra treat for supporters also, with the Offaly team that won the All-Ireland Under 21 Football Championship final in 1988 being introduced between the two games.