All-Ireland champions St Vincents of Dublin will start next month’s Leinster club championship final as clear favourites against Rhode of Offaly after today's semi-finals.
A strong performance from the Faithful County champions this afternoon hinted at the fact that the December 14 clash might not be a mere coronation for the Marino side, however.
Rhode were simply superb in Tullamore against Moorefield of Kildare, posting up a 1-6 to 0-1 lead after 20 minutes and coming again strongly in the closing minutes after a Ronan Sweeney penalty helped to cut the gap down to just three points.
They ran out 1-15 to 2-4 winners at O’Connor Park and unlike the previous round when they struck late goals to give themselves a flattering nine-point winning margin over Navan O’Mahonys, they were worth every ounce of that eight-point gap this afternoon.
Niall McNamee (0-7, 0-3f) and Anton Sullivan (1-2) were in imperious form for the home side and they terrorised the Moorefield defence in the early stages, with Sullivan adding a crucial goal after nine minutes when Paul McPadden capitalised on a mistake by Ross Glavin in the Moorefield defence.
Moorefield manager Luke Dempsey said after the game that “gambling” on Glavin was a mistake.
“He was sick all weekend with a vomiting bug and you could see there in first half, he just wasn’t himself,” he said.
“We probably left him on too long as well and we went in with far too big of a deficit at eight points.”
A scrappy 23rd-minute goal from Adam Tyrrell gave the Moorefield supporters real cause for hope but the Newbridge club failed to build on that score and instead coughed up three more points before half time.
The introduction of Darly Flynn for Glavin at half time helped Moorefield to take control of the third quarter and points from Tyrrell and Niall Hurley-Lynch either side of a contentious penalty goal from Sweeney brought the gap down to three, but Rhode took control of the tie once more in the closing stages and struck five points without reply, taking full advantage of Moorefield’s need to push forward and the subsequent space at the back.
St Vincents made a similarly strong start against Garrycastle of Westmeath in this afternoon’s 4pm throw-in at Parnell Park, but they failed to take full advantage of their early dominance and almost paid the price when the 2011 Leinster champions pushed back and had them on the rack for long stages of the second half, drawing level with eighteen minutes to play.
A late penalty for Mossy Quinn – bringing his total for the day to 2-2 – was needed to finally crush the resistance of the Westmeath club, though it didn’t need to be anything like as nerve wracking for the Marino men as they spurned a string of great goal chances early on.
A stunning goal from Quinn and a nice Shane Carthy point gave the hosts the best possible start, but Carthy and Gavin Burke both passed up opportunities rattle the net a second time inside the first ten minutes.
That didn’t seem to matter as Vincents cut through the Garrycastle defence at will early on, building up a 2-6 to 0-2 lead by the 25 minute mark, Carthy adding the second goal.
Nobody would have imagined at that stage that it would be nearly twenty minutes before they would score again, much less that Garrycastle would draw level in that time.
A 1-2 contribution from Dessie Dolan proved that the 35-year old Westmeath veteran is still a force to be reckoned with, while Vincents also needed a huge save from Michael Savage to deny James Dolan a second goal.
Garrycastle couldn’t find a way to get their noses in front however and they paid the price late on when Ruairí Trainor was dragged down by Cathal Mullin in front of goal, leading to a black card for the Garrycastle custodian and a spot kick for Vincents.
Quinn made no mistake from the penalty and the same player added a sumptuous insurance score in injury time to round off a 3-9 to 1-10 victory.