Talking points: O’Donnell imperious, resilient Rhode, Drom evolving around Callanan

Christy O'Connor takes us through the weekend's talking points
Talking points: O’Donnell imperious, resilient Rhode, Drom evolving around Callanan

IMPERIOUS: Shane O'Donnell. ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

O’Donnell gives a display for the ages 

In the opening sequence of play after only 15 seconds of Éire Óg’s win against Clooney-Quin in their final group game two weeks ago, Shane O’Donnell almost had the ball in the Clooney net only for a brilliant save from Keith Hogan. O’Donnell was on fire throughout that match and he carried that scorching form into yesterday’s Clare senior hurling quarter-final against Inagh-Kilnamona.

O’Donnell ended with 1-9 from play but his first half performance was one for the ages. O’Donnell was just unmarkable. As well as scoring 1-7, O’Donnell set up Danny Russell’s goal and almost raised another green flag when his shot before half-time rattled the crossbar. O’Donnell was also fouled for a converted free for another goal chance while he set up Darren O’Brien for a goal chance early on, when O’Brien’s shot was saved by Eamonn Foudy but Russell fired the rebound over the bar. It was the complete display during that half because O’Donnell either scored or engineered 11 scores from 12 possessions.

O’Donnell ended with 1-9 from play but the second half was a forgettable one after his Clare teammate, Jason McCarthy, suffered a horrendous leg injury, which forced the game to be delayed for over 40 minutes. It was a terribly sad sight. The game was almost irrelevant after the ambulance finally arrived, but the first half will always be remembered for O’Donnell’s brilliance.

Rhode just know no other way 

As yesterday’s Offaly senior football quarter-final entered the fourth quarter, Tullamore looked in pole position to drive on and secure successive county titles for the first time in 96 years. Tullamore led by two points. Rhode had only scored 0-6 but then Anton Sullivan nailed a quality score before Rhode really turned the screw.

Alan McNamee won the Tullamore kickout and he bombed a high ball into the square, which was won by Rúarí McNamee, after pickpocketing it from Johnny Moloney, before rounding the keeper and slotting the ball into an empty net. Then Rhode turned over the next Tullamore attack which ended with a Niall McNamee free to push the margin out to three.

Tullamore never panicked. They had the next five shots and had levelled the match with less than four minutes to play. Ciarán Egan had a chance to push Tullamore back in front but Rhode won the kickout and Niall McNamee secured a mark before pushing Rhode one in front.

Rhode held on for one of their sweetest wins. They went into the match as underdogs but, crucially, they showed their experience when it mattered most. In that final quarter, Rhode’s conversion rate was 83% compared to Tullamore’s 50%.

Decisive.

Drom evolving nicely 

In the 58th minute of Saturday’s Drom & Inch and Loughmore-Castleiney Tipperary senior hurling quarter-final, Seamus Callanan scored his first point from play. It was actually Callanan’s only shot at the target from play in the match. He did nail five frees from six placed ball attempts but he was playing in a far deeper role than usual.

Playing as a half-forward, there were times in the first half when Callanan looked like he was operating as an auxiliary half-back. The majority of his 11 possessions were in deep-lying positions but the way in which Drom & Inch were able to use Callanan showcased how a young and energetic side are maturing and evolving all the time.

Callanan was well marshalled by the impressive John Ryan before he went off injured in the second half but Callanan’s deep positioning did open up huge tracts of space for their inside forwards, especially the outstanding David Collins. A huge target man, Collins - who recovered from a hip operation earlier this year - scored four excellent points from play.

Drom were deserving winners but they were left hanging on for their lives late on when goalkeeper Eoin Collins was forced to make two fine saves deep in injury-time. Still, a young team is growing and evolving nicely throughout this championship.

O’Donoghue back but Belmullet out 

Belmullet trailed Breaffy by 0-4 to 0-1 in Round 3 of the Mayo championship on Saturday when Belmullet manager Liam McHale introduced Ryan O’Donoghue for his first competitive appearance since last April’s Connacht quarter-final against Galway. Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly also marked his first championship appearance of the campaign with three brilliantly struck long-range place-kicks.

Breaffy looked set to cruise when ahead by six points at the break but O’Donoghue was key to a late fightback. When O’Donoghue was out for the opening two games, it looked like Ronan Murray would provide ample cover, especially in Belmullet’s first game when he single-handedly drove the side to a one-point win against Balla, scoring 3-4.

Murray returned to play with Belmullet this year after a soccer career in England brought him from Ipswich to loan spells with Swindon Town, Torquay United and Plymouth Argyle before making the move to Notts County in 2013. Three years later, Murray crossed back over the Irish Sea for spells with Galway United, Dundalk, Sligo Rovers and, most recently, Drogheda United.

Murray was hoping that he could enjoy football success with his home club after they reached last year’s county final. But Breaffy put paid to those hopes, while they also exacted revenge for last year’s county quarter-final defeat.

Osbourne heroics 

When Portarlington secured last year’s Laois senior football title, it was one of the sweetest titles they had ever won. Portarlington had only claimed their first Laois senior title in 20 years 13 weeks earlier when they beat Graiguecullen in the delayed 2020 final. Yet dismantling Portlaoise added sugar to the taste given how Portlaoise had set the standard in Laois over the two previous decades.

Portarlington were hot favourites to beat Portlaoise again in yesterday’s semi-final and, while they did, they needed an incredible save from Scott Osbourne in the third minute of additional time to win by one point.

With Portlaoise manically chasing an equaliser with their final attack, Aidan McGovern meandered his way through the Portarlington defence on the inside left channel before squaring the ball across the goal. As Kieran Lillis arrived on the back post, he fisted the ball hard from close range. It should have been a certain goal but Osbourne acrobatically contorted his body and kept the shot out.

When Portarlington won the last two championships, they conceded just one goal across those two seasons. It’s easy to see why.

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