An early goal from Rhode’s Anton Sullivan put Moorefield on the back foot against the Offaly champions and while the Kildare side enjoyed a strong spell during the third quarter and brought the gap down to just three points, the Offaly champions had the power to kick on.
Nine of the last 11 Leinster club campaigns involved either one or both of these sides and that made it all the more surprising when Rhode burst from the blocks in the first half and overwhelmed their Kildare counterparts in almost every facet of play, establishing an eight point interval lead that Moorefield manager Luke Dempsey conceded was far too tough a situation to retrieve.
“It didn’t happen for us from the start,” he said. “We gambled on Ross Glavin and that was a mistake on our part. He was sick all weekend with a vomiting bug and you could see there in first half when he got caught in possession for the goal. We probably left him on too long as well and we went in with far too big of a deficit at eight points.”
Midfield dominance was expected to be Moorefield’s trump card here but instead Rhode lorded the battle for primary possession, winning 15 out of 20 restarts in the opening half hour. First cousins Alan and Conor McNamee competed well in the air and once the ball hit the deck, the Rhode half lines were ravenous in their hunger for breaks.
Captain Paraic Sullivan was at the heart of that from centre-forward and his black card after 15 minutes threatened to derail the home side, but sub Stephen Hannon stepped into the breach admirably and Rhode never missed a beat. They went into a 1-6 to 0-1 lead after 20 minutes, coughed up a scrappy goal to Adam Tyrrell and still rebounded well to pick up three more points before half time.
Moorefield introduced Daryl Flynn at half-time and his physical presence, combined with a contentious penalty that was well converted by Ronan Sweeney, helped slash the gap down to just three points — but that was to be as close as they got, much to Dempsey’s disappointment.
“In that period we had three attacks that yielded nothing. Ronan Sweeney was caught in possession, two other attacks ended in wasted ball and when you’re eight points down you have to take all your chances.”
An inspirational point from Niall McNamee with 12 minutes to play turned the tide conclusively in Rhode’s favour and they went on to add four more points without reply, including one from Hannon and another from minor star Ruairí McNamee.
Rhode manager Pat Daly said: “I was extremely pleased with the way our lads reacted when Moorefield got the goal and a handful of points at the start of the second half. Modern football is all about having a strong panel and we are lucky because we great footballers fighting for their position, just like Ruairí and Stephen showed. We’re delighted to be there now, our Leinster final will give everyone throughout the county a chance to get behind our team and build Offaly football.”
Scorers for Rhode: N McNamee 0-7 (0-3f), A Sullivan 1-2, N Darby 0-3f, P McPadden, S Hannon & R McNamee 0-1 each.
Scorers for Moorefield: A Tyrrell 1-1, R Sweeney 1-0 pen, E O’Connor (f), C Kelly & N Hurley-Lynch 0-1 each.
RHODE: K Garry; J Kavanagh, E Rigney, J McPadden; C Heavey, B Darby, E Byrne; A McNamee, C McNamee; N Darby, P Sullivan, G O’Connell; P McPadden, A Sullivan, N McNamee.
Subs: S Hannon for P Sullivan (15 — B/C), R McNamee for P McPadden (52), S Sullivan for N Darby (54).
MOOREFIELD: T Corley; G Naughton, L Healy, L Callaghan; K Murnaghan, J Murray, R Houlihan; R Glavin, C O’Connor; E Heavey, R Sweeney, A Tyrrell; E O’Connor, C Kelly, N Hurley-Lynch.
Subs: D Flynn for Glavin (HT), F Hanniffy for C O’Connor (51), L Murphy for Healy (53), K Duane for Murray (55).
Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford)