St Vincent’s 1-16 (Dublin) Rhode 0-12 (Offaly): That old familiar feeling infiltrated every corner of O’Moore Park yesterday: St Vincent’s too good; too bad, Rhode.
Not since 1977 have the men from Marino been felled in a Leinster decider and at that it was the only time in eight decider appearances that they’ve come out on the wrong side of the result.
The same could not be said of Rhode, who were on the receiving end of another provincial final defeat yesterday, their second in three years to St Vincent’s and fourth in total against Dublin opposition.
Missing army-tied Anton Sullivan and Jake Kavanagh, Rhode were relying on graft and the law of averages to work in their favour. They were full of vim in the opening stages, only they were running themselves into difficulty and finding the ball being commandeered by St Vincent’s far too often.
Pascal Kelleghan reported afterwards that 1-4 of St Vincents’ 1-8 total in the first half came from Rhode being turned over. There were occasions when they, too, were forcing the Dublin champions into errors, but they paled in comparison to their opponents’ successes.
Diarmuid Connolly gave us teasers of brilliance, but mostly in the first half. His sixth minute goal was expertly taken. Enda Varley did all the spadework, forcing the turnover, before providing to Shane Carthy, who in turn supplied Connolly, but the captain’s shot was so low and good Kenny Garry didn’t stand a chance.
Connolly showed he can be a target man too, as his 10th-minute point proved, and he turned provider for Carthy with a typically pinpoint free six minutes later. His ambidexterity was on show in the 29th minute, when he replicated his majestic point against Kerry in this year’s All-Ireland semi-final.
Other than an assist here and there, he wasn’t so obvious in the second half, but by that stage the baton had been passed onto others, such as Gavin Burke and Carthy. Mossy Quinn was his useful self in the inside line and cleverly slowed down the play in preparing to take frees, as reality began to dawn on Rhode they would be bridesmaids for a fifth time in 10 years.
Things could have been a lot different had Rhode, trailing by three points, goaled from their penalty in first-half additional time. Ger Brennan was black carded for cynically bringing down Niall McNamee as he attempted to connect with a ball squared by Conor McNamee. Another McNamee, Ruairi, stepped up to the plate, but his strike was stopped by Michael Savage. Rhode’s predicament worsened seconds later when Burke sent over his second point and St Vincent’s went into the break 1-8 to 0-6 ahead.
Pascal Kelleghan knew the importance of the penalty, but wasn’t going to fault his player.
“Yeah, [it would have been] a huge lift. Ruairi showed huge responsibility for a young chap in taking it. Anton [Sullivan] sometimes takes them there, as well, not around today. Ruairi showed responsibility. That’s great for a 19, 20-year-old. He has a huge future. No-one will blame him for missing a penalty. There was still a lot of work to do in the second half. I’m very proud of the guys and the support from all over Offaly and the management team. We gave it our all.”
Rhode did show character in responding to both of St Vincent’s early second-half points, before Darren Garry and Ciaran Heavey’s points indicated a fightback was on. The latter score, though, turned out to be Rhode’s last for 19 minutes, by which time St Vincent’s had tagged on four points of their own, two of them Quinn frees.
The margin was eight by the time Niall McNamee converted a free in the 53rd minute. He added another late on, blazing it over as he attempted to breach Savage’s line. Just prior to it, Garry also had a late goal chance, but sent it wide.
Not that the three points would have a blind bit of difference; St Vincent’s weren’t going to be touched.
“They’re an exceptional team,” acknowledged Kelleghan. “I’m very proud of our guys. I’m not playing the poor mouth, but small area... it’s hard when you come up against these Dublin teams, they’re just so strong.”
Scorers for St Vincent’s:
D. Connolly (1-2); T. Quinn (0-4, 2 frees); G. Burke (0-3): E. Varley, S. Carthy (0-2 each); Cormac Diamond, J. Feeney, R. Trainor (0-1 each)
Scorers for Rhode:
N. McNamee (0-6, 5 frees); D. Garry (0-2); P. McPadden, C. McNamee, N. Darby, D. Heavey (0-1 each).
M. Savage; M. Concarr, J. Curley, C. Wilson; Cameron Diamond, G. Brennan, N. Mullins; D. Murphy, S. Carthy; G. Burke, D. Connolly (c), Cormac Diamond; E. Varley, R. Trainor, T. Quinn.
Subs for St Vincent’s:
F. Breathnach for G. Brennan (black, h-t); A. Martin for D. Murphy (39); J. Feeney for A. Martin (inj, 45); J. McCusker for Cormac Diamond (58); K. Bonnie for E. Varley (60+3).
K. Garry; E. Rigney, C. Heavey, J. McPadden; B. Darby, E. Rigney, N. Darby; A. McNamee, D. Garry; P. Sullivan, N. McNamee, C. McNamee; S. Hannon, R. McNamee, P. McPadden.
Subs for Rhode:
G. O’Connell for P. Sullivan (40); D. Kavanagh for C. Heavey (53); G. McNamee for S. Sullivan (56); S. Lowry for J. McPadden (60+4); E. Byrne for C. McNamee (black 60+4).
B. Cawley (Kildare).
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