McNamee hails team spirit as Rhode seal final spot
Rhode 0-12 S O'Mahony's 1
The start of the festive season will be ignored by Rhode manager Pascal Kellaghan and his players as they face up to the mixed blessings that came with victory over a gallant and tough Sean O'Mahony's side at Drogheda yesterday.
On the positive side, the Offaly champions safely negotiated a tricky tie against the giant killers from Dundalk on away territory, but then came news that old foes St Vincent's await them in the Leinster final on Sunday week.
That would be the same Vincent's who comprehensively outplayed Rhode in the 2014 final. And this, without club stalwarts Jake Kavanagh and Anton Sullivan who are on Army duty in the Lebanon.
No easy task there, but if winning a first senior provincial title were easy, Rhode would have done it long before now in four previous finals since 2006.
"We played in the Leinster final in '14 and we didn't win our own final last year, so people probably wrote us off.
"We are back in another final and we have to get the heads down. We take it one game at a time and it's going to be very difficult," said Kellaghan.
Man of the match Niall McNamee put most of the finishing touches to the hard work, scoring eight points, five from free-kicks.
St Vincent's know all about his quality, but if they ever needed a reminder, Sean O'Mahony's manager Alan Craven offered this view.
"Our centre half (Sean O'Brien) who was doing the man-marking job, said at the end that if there's a better footballer in gaelic football than Niall McNamee, then he's retiring," he said.
Craven's men have excelled in coming through Louth to reach this stage of the competition, but ultimately the extra class and experience in the Rhode ranks made the difference.
The Louth team were 0-2 to 0-5 down at half time, with just two points from frees by forward Conor Finnegan on the board.
They had done well to restrict Rhode to just five scores, all by Niall McNamee, four of them from frees.
The Faithful County side had looked at times like carving up their opponents with pace and movement, but doggedly defiant, O'Mahony's stayed in close contention.
Had they taken full advantage from two second half penalties, the odds against an O'Mahony's upset would have narrowed.
The first chance came from Stephen Fisher's 39th minute spot kick when they were five points behind.
Luckily for the Offaly champions, goalkeeper Kenny Garry dived to save Fisher's shot. Conor Finnegan slotted over a point from the resulting goal area scramble, but the potential damage was minimised.
Fisher made no mistake from the second penalty, scoring in the 56th minute to cut the deficit to four points on a 0-12 to 1-5 scoreline in favour of the Offaly team.
Despite some ferociously intense exchanges in the ensuing eight minutes played by referee John Hickey, the scoreline did not change.
"We were happy with the way we played, but I suppose the difference was that we didn't take our chances today in the way that we've taken them in past. But in saying that, the better team won on the day. No complaints about that," said O'Mahony's manager Craven.
Rhode brought in Ciaran Heavey and Darren Garry to replace the two absent soldiers, Kavanagh and Sullivan, and their performance drew praise from Niall McNamee.
"They were seamless stepping into the team today and it just means more lads have opportunities," he said.
Scorers - Rhode: N McNamee 0-8 (5f); P McPadden 0-2; B Darby, R McNamee 0-1 each. Sean O'Mahony's: C Finnegan 0-4 (3f); S Fisher 1-0 (pen); S Kilcoyne 0-1.
Rhode - K Garry; B Darby, S Sullivan, C Heavey; D Garry, E Rigney, N Darby; A McNamee, C McNamee; J McPadden, N McNamee, P Sullivan; P McPadden, R McNamee, S Hannon. Subs: G O'Connell for S Hannon (50); D Kavanagh for P Sullivan (58); G McNamee for C Heavey (58); E Byrne for P McPadden (60+3).
Sean O'Mahony's - B Traynor; J Connolly, R Byrne, M Clarke; K Murphy, J O'Brien, C Martin; L Dullaghan, S Brennan; C Finnegan, B McLaughlin , S Fisher; J McLaughlin, C Crawley, S Kilcoyne. Subs: D Dowling for B McLaughlin (41); B Mackin for J Connolly (48); N McLaughlin for S Kilcoyne (54); P O'Brien for M Clarke (60+3).
Ref - J Hickey (Carlow)