TULLAMORE shocked holders Rhode to win the battle of the Big Two in Offaly football and reclaim the Dowling Cup at O'Connor Park, Tullamore.
The victory was a triumph for hard work and self-belief; the key man was Shane Dooley, whose opportunism yielded a goal in each half in a 2-3 haul.
Tullamore manager John Rouse was delighted with the overall performance and particularly with dual star Dooley's contribution.
"Credit to the lads for the way they've worked over the last number of months and the way they worked on the field today," Rouse said.
"As for Shane, he's a super footballer and he's a super hurler. He has the big-game mentality and it shone through today."
The size of the challenge facing Tullamore was underlined by the favouritism for Rhode in the betting, but the 2012 champions failed to deliver.
Rhode will have much to ponder – they lost by only four points and they squandered a bagful of chances – they had a wide count of 14 for against only six for Tullamore.
For once, Rhode's talisman Niall McNamee had a day he would prefer to forget. He was well marshalled by Tullamore skipper Paul McConway, but when he did roam outfield and carve out some shooting chances the normally deadly accurate forward was off-key.
Five wides and only two points is the opposite of McNamee's normal showing on the scoreboard, but he wasn't the only Rhode player to miss.
Tullamore worked hard to make life hard for their opponents. They either shuttled Rhode players out wide, or smothered the acreage with bodies to restrict clear-cut chances. And by and large, the efforts paid off, bar the last 10 minutes of the first half.
Tullamore had scored only three times in the opening 30 minutes, but the middle score was a priceless 16th-minute goal by Dooley.
Ciaran Moloney sent the ball towards the Rhode goal area and John Moloney did well to get a touch and break it down for Dooley to hit the net. Dooley had earlier opened the scoring within 20 seconds of the start, and in the 21st minute Ciaran Moloney punched over a point.
Rhode had been inclined to run into blind avenues by over-passing or shooting from poor angles and it was the 19th minute before midfielder Mark Dunne got their first point.
From then to the interval, Rhode upped their game and scores were clipped over by McNamee, Glenn O'Connell and two by Niall Darby (one free) to make it 1-2 to 0-5 at half-time.
Back on level terms, Tullamore were left with it all to do again, as their manager conceded.
"When you're playing a team like Rhode, they're always going to have their period of dominance," Rouse said. "We knew it would come. We just needed to react well when it happened. We possibly could have reacted a bit better."
Half-time was a period of reassessment for both sides and Rhode manager Pat Daly told his men they needed to up their game.
"I said to the boys at half-time that we hadn't turned up in the first half and I thought we would push on in the second half, but we didn't," he said. "That's testament to Tullamore, they showed fierce hunger and desire."
Four minutes after the restart, midfielder Michael Brazil got a point to edge Tullamore ahead and in the 39th minute Dooley struck a vital goal. The ball broke off Brian Darby and Dooley showed a poacher's instinct to slot home.
A minute later, O'Connell got Rhode's first score of the half, but then John Moloney kicked a point to put Tullamore ahead by 2-4 to 0-6.
Rhode emptied the bench, including replacing Darby with Rory McNamee in the 49th minute but to no avail. Tullamore dug deeper the longer the game went on.
"I haven't been hurling for a few weeks, so it lightens the load on the legs," said a delighted Dooley.
"It was just hard work that won it for us. We knew we had the potential in the team. We've won a fair bit at underage level and we knew the talent was there. This is huge for the club."
Dooley, the Moloneys Ciaran and John, Paul McConway, midfielders Johnny O'Donohue and Michael Brazil, and hard-working Kevin Williamson underpinned the Tullamore victory.
The town team restricted Rhode to four points in the second half and notched up 1-5 themselves to win back the title for the first time since 2008.
Rhode will have to lick their wounds. They are now stalled on 26 county football titles while Tullamore stretched their tally to 28.
SCORERS – Tullamore: S Dooley 2-3 (1f), C Moloney, M Brazil, J Moloney, S Kelly 0-1 each. Rhode: N Darby G O'Connell 0-2 (1f) each, M Dunne, N McNamee, E Byrne, P Kellaghan, J McPadden 0-1 each.
TULLAMORE – E Brennan; D Carroll, P McConway, M Conlon; K O'Brien, J Keane, G Ward; J O'Donohue, M Brazil; N Bracken, J Moloney, C Moloney; K Williamson, S Kelly, S Dooley. Subs: B Francis for K O'Brien (50), J Kenny for C Moloney (53), D O'Neill for S Kelly (59).
RHODE – K Garry; D Murphy, S Sullivan, J McPadden; C Heavey, B Darby, E Byrne; A McNamee, M Dunne; S Hannon, G O'Connell, P Sullivan; N Darby, N McNamee, P McPadden. Subs: E Rigney for S Sullivan (36), Conor McNamee for S Hannon (40),P Kellaghan for P McPadden (44), D Hope for G O'Connell (45), Rory McNamee for N Darby (49).
Ref – F Smyth