Niall McNamee produced yet another man-of-the-match display as Rhode progressed to their fifth AIB Leinster Club SFC final since 2006 at Drogheda this afternoon. McNamee hit all his side’s five points in the opening half and fired over another three in the second, as well as setting up most of Rhode’s other scores. Sean O’Mahony’s gave a gallant display but were unable to made inroads in their deficit as the game progressed.
The first-time winners in Louth spurned a glorious chance to reduce the gap to only two points in the 43rd minute when Stephen Fisher’s weak penalty was saved by Kenny Garry. The spot-kick had been awarded after a despairing tackle by Alan McNamee on full-forward Conor Crawley, who had been left in acres of space.
Incredibly, only one of the three spot-kicks awarded by John Hickey was converted. Fisher made no mistake the second time round when he blasted past Garry in the 56th minute. But by then it was too late as Rhode still held a four point lead (0-12 to 1-5) and there would be no further scores before the final whistle.
Deep in injury-time, Rhode too were awarded a penalty, but Glen O’Connell’s well-struck shot rebounded back into play off the butt of the post. As a result, Rhode finished the contest with no goal, but really should have capitalised on a couple of chances which presented themselves midway through the second half. Weak shots by Darren Garry and Ruairi McNamee were both saved by Brendan Traynor.
The first half was competitively fought, with space up front at a premium and the opening 30 minutes only featured one score from open play. It came in the 28th minute from Niall McNamee who by then had already converted three frees and his fourth placed ball put Rhode ahead by 0-5 to 0-2 at the interval. Sean O’Mahony’s frees were popped over from close range by Conor Finnegan in the 6th and 7th minutes, both of which brought them back on level terms. They persisted with pumping high balls on top of full forward Crawley, but Shane Sullivan gave the big full-forward little room for manoeuvre.
An early second half burst by Rhode gave them sufficient breathing space to comfortably advance. Niall McNamee led the way again with their sixth and eighth points, either side of an excellent Brian Darby effort. Conor Finnegan eventually ended Sean O’Mahony’s barren spell with a 37th minute free, and the same player floated over their only score from play after Fishers’ss penalty was saved. But Paul McPadden was on target twice in the 43rd and 51st minutes and even tough Stephen Kilcoyne had hit over a free for Sean O’Mahony’s in between, cousins Niall and Ruairi McNamee stretched Rhode’s advantage to seven points with time running out.
The late penalty drama did little to cause concern for Rhode who will now be bidding for a first ever Leinster Club title.
Rhode: N McNamee (5f) 0-8; P McPadden 0-2; B Darby, R McNamee 0-1 each.
Sean O’Mahony’s: C Finnegan (3f) 0-4; S Fisher (pen) 1-0; S Kilcoyne (f) 0-1.
RHODE: Ken Garry; Eoin Rigney, Shane Sullivan, James McPadden; Ciarán Heavey, Brian Darby, Niall Darby; Alan McNamee, Conor McNamee; Stephen Hannon, Ruairi McNamee, Paul McPadden; Pauric Sullivan, Darren Garry, Niall McNamee. Subs: Glen O’Connell for S Hannon (50 min); Dylan Kavanagh for P Sullivan (57 min); Garrett McNamee for C Heavey (57 min); Eoghan Byrne for P McPadden (60 min).
SEAN O’MAHONY’S: Brendan Traynor; Kurt Murphy, Ronan Byrne, Michael Clarke; Liam Dullaghan, John O’Brien, Jonathan Connolly; Conor Martin, Shane Brennan; Conor Finnegan, Keith McLaughlin, Stephen Fisher; Stephen Kilcoyne, Conor Crawley, Ben McLaughlin. Subs: David Dowling for B McLaughlin (40 min); Barry Mackin for J Connolly (48 min); Niall McLaughlin for S Kilcoyne (55 min); Padraig O’Brien for M Clarke (60 min).
Referee: John Hickey (Carlow)