Crokes drive gets over Rhode block
Nestor penalty save vital as Dubs regain crown
Leinster Club SFC Final
RHODE manager Tom Coffey appraised it accurately when he remarked that to beat such a powerful outfit as Kilmacud Crokes, everything has to go right all the time for the opposition.
Rhode did extremely well for the first 17 minutes in Portlaoise yesterday, opening up a four-point lead, but from there on it was Kilmacud who shaped the more coherent patterns as they out-scored their rivals by 0-11 to 0-2 and return to the summit of Leinster club football.
A scoring burst in the last 10 minutes of the first half and the opening five minutes of the second period asserted Kilmacud's authority and while they had two scary moments later on, they survived both.
First, Niall McNamee slammed a drive off the crossbar in the 49th minute and seven minutes later it took a great penalty save from Kilmacud 'keeper David Nestor to deny the desperate Offaly men the goal which might have reignited their challenge.
The opportunity arose when Anton Sullivan was fouled in the Kilmacud square, presenting McNamee with a penalty, which, had it yielded a goal, would have cut the deficit to a single point. However, Nestor read the kick well to make a crucial block and while Rhode had another good chance from the re-bound, the ball was diverted out for a '45,' which McNamee pointed.
It was Rhode's last big drive and Kilmacud saw things through quite comfortably, kicking two more points. Rhode were a beaten side and their miserable day was compounded by the late dismissal of midfielder Alan McNamee on a second yellow card.
Alan McNamee and Mark Dunne had started well, winning lots of possession around midfield, but Kilmacud pair Paddy Duggan and Craig Dias gradually dug their way in and were dominant in the second half. The change in the balance of power around midfield was crucial on a day when Kilmacud had eight different scorers. Rhode's early supply into attack was quick and direct, offering Niall McNamee, Paschal Kellaghan and Anton Sullivan the chance to really test the Kilmacud defence.
They made what looked like a decisive break in the seventh minute when McNamee knocked the ball down to Kellaghan who kicked a goal. By the 17th minute, Rhode were 1-5 to 0-4 ahead, leaving their supporters daring to dream that after losing Leinster finals in 2006 and 2008, their glory day had arrived. However, it was another false dawn as the well-constructed south Dublin outfit settled into an impressive rhythm.
"We had to weather the storm, but we managed it. There's great character in this squad and it showed when we fell four points behind," said Kilmacud captain Pat Burke. Brian Kavanagh, Declan Kelleher and Mark Vaughan were very productive in a Kilmacud attack, which improved dramatically once the supply increased from midfield.
It was all very different for Niall McNamee and Co in the second half as they were living off very small rations. McNamee moved outfield in a search for possession and while it was an understandable tactic in difficult circumstances, it blunted Rhode's scoring edge in front of goal.
"We were okay at half-time (Rhode led by 1-5 to 0-7), but Kilmacud hit us with four points early in the second half. We hit the bar and missed a penalty later on and a few other things also went against us. It's disappointing to lose another final, but I'm still very proud of our team and what they have achieved for Rhode," said Coffey.
Paddy Carr identified Kilmacud's regaining of power around midfield as a key game-changer.
"We were able to push on and put pressure on the Rhode defence. And when they attacked, our defence were very disciplined. A lot of things have been said about Kilmacud Crokes that I
aren't true. What these lads are achieving doesn't come without a massive sense of humility and togetherness," he said.
Kilmacud are without several big names due to injury and overseas employment, but they are coping extremely well as they prepare to head into an All-Ireland semi-final clash with Crossmaglen Rangers.
"We know what that will be like. Crossmaglen are a fantastic club who are well used to All-Ireland semi-finals and finals," said Burke.
For Rhode, it was yet another disappointing day. They gave themselves every chance in the first half, but couldn't sustain the necessary momentum once Kilmacud increased the pace and intensity in the second half.
"Kilmacud are a great side. They're also very strong physically which makes it even harder to cope," said Coffey.
Still, had Rhode enjoyed any luck they might have had two second-half goals, but it was one of those days when the key marginals went against them. Their error rate increased as Kilmacud piled on the pressure and whereas Rhode were getting quick ball into the attack in the first half, their build-ups became slow and laborious from there on.
Nor were they helped by some sloppy passing, especially during their attempts to work the ball out of defence.
Kilmacud punished the mistakes and, in the end, were comfortable winners.
Paying tribute to the entire club, Pat Burke said the success was a prize for everybody.
Scorers -- Kilmacud: B Kavanagh 0-5 (4f), D Kelleher 0-3, M Vaughan 0-2, L Og O hEineachain, B McGrath, C Dias, A Morrissey, P Burke 0-1 each. Rhode: N McNamee 0-3 (1 '45), P Kellaghan 1-0, N Darby 0-2, D Hope, A Sullivan 0-1 each.
Kilmacud -- D Nestor; Ross O'Carroll, K Nolan, C Lamb; C O'Sullivan, B McGrath, R Ryan; P Duggan, C Dias; L Og O hEineachain, D Kelleher, A Morrissey; P Burke, B Kavanagh, M Vaughan. Subs: B O'Rorke for Morrissey (46), N McGrath for Lamb (57).
Rhode -- E McDonald; S Sullivan, B Darby, D Murphy; C Heavey, D Hope, E Byrne; A McNamee, M Dunne; N Darby, P Sullivan, A Sullivan; G O'Connell, P Kellaghan, N McNamee. Sub: R Malone for O'Connell (50).
Ref -- E Kinsella (Laois).