The former Offaly forward rolled back the years to kill off a Meath team with a decisive strike, just like he famously did in 1997. Back then he was the Offaly hero as his two-goal Croke Park haul denied favourites Meath a provincial title in sensational fashion. At 34, the forward could only manage eight minutes of action yesterday due to a niggling calf strain but he still made his mark in that time.
With just a point between the teams after a typical Skryne fight-back, Malone finished off a neat passing move by fisting to the net. The goal, two minutes from time, concluded the scoring and sealed a slightly flattering four-point victory for Rhode, who now face Kilmacud Crokes.
In truth, they shouldn’t have required Malone’s bailout as they led by five at half-time. Rhode played all the football in the first half and should have had more goals to show for their efforts following a 12th-minute strike from Niall McNamee .
The margin was out to six points early in the second half when Niall Darby drove over his second point for Rhode, but true to the pattern of Skryne’s recent form, they saved their best for last.
Rhode had an opportunity to effectively seal victory when Darby was gifted possession by an errant pass from Skryne ‘keeper Felim O’Rourke, but instead of blasting the ball to the net his rasping shot cleared the cross bar.
Leading by six, it was Rhode’s game to lose and they nearly did. Skryne scored four in a row in a rousing revival and the margin was eventually brought down to just one when Skryne got their second goal through Kevin Mulvaney.
Soon after, Paddy O’Rourke had an attempted equaliser blocked down and Giles was dispossessed in the Rhode half, allowing the Offaly men to break and claim the decisive goal. Glen O’Connell fed Anton Sullivan on the right side of goals and there was Malone free in the middle to pounce for the score and break Meath hearts.
Scorers for Rhode: N. McNamee 1-4 (1 free); R. Malone 1-0; N. Darby 0-3 (1 free); A. Sullivan (0-2); D. Hope and A. McNamee 0-1 each.Scorers for Skryne: I. Davis 0-6 (6 frees); K. Mulvaney 1-1; P. O’Rourke (1 45), A. Tuite and M. Battersby 0-1 each.
RHODE: E. McDonald; D. Murphy, E. Byrne, B. Darby; C. Heavey, D. Hope, S. Sullivan; A. McNamee, M. Dunne; G. O’Connell, P. Sullivan, A. Sullivan; N. McNamee, P. Kellaghan, N. Darby.
Subs: R Malone (1-0) for P Sullivan (52).
SKRYNE: F. O’Rourke; A. Curry, D. Beaton, M. Jordan; J. Looby, C. Lenehan, J. Hegarty; P. O’Rourke, A. Tuite; D. McGoldrick, T. Giles, I. Davis; K. Mulvaney, B. Byrne, M. Battersby.
Subs: B. Davis for Byrne (43), P. Fox for McGoldrick (52), V. O’Reilly for Hegarty (57).
Ref: M. Deegan (Laois).