TWO of the championship heavyweights slugged it out in the scoring stakes in a game that produced five goals for the small number of supporters who ventured into O’Connor Park.
At one stage defending champions Rhode looked like they were going to run away with the game as they built a 2-8 to 1-3 lead against the wind but Tullamore came back strongly and eventually took the lead after two goals in as many minutes in the second-half.
It was nip and tuck from their as both sides looked to land the knockout punch but in the end Rhode landed more shots before the bell went to claim the win.
In the grand scheme of things this result will be long forgotten come the quarter-finals but you would expect Rhode to top the group now and in doing so avoid the winners of Group 2 until the county final. Tullamore will make the quarter-finals and they could well do so in second place.
Rhode will be thankful that Niall McNamee brought his shooting boots on Saturday as the Offaly captain finished with a hugely impressive 2-5. He had his struggles during the spring with the county team but he got the better of James Keane on Saturday to make a match winning contribution.
For Tullamore, Shane Dooley again showed he is as comfortable shooting with his foot as he is with a hurl as he contributed 1-3. He also won what lookeds a rather soft penalty which was converted by Kevin Williamson who also finished the day with 1-3.
With the wind Rhode only managed six points and they went 15 minutes without a score at the start of the second-half. Tullamore similarly went 19 minutes without a score in the first-half after they had blasted into a 1-3 to 0-2 lead.
The sides exchanged two points apiece in the opening seven minutes with Kevin Williamson on target twice for Tullamore and Niall Darby and Mark Dunne replying for Rhode.
Shane Dooley edged Tullamore in front for the third time after nine minutes with a point and that was followed in quick time by a goal from Brian Francis who was put through by Briain O’Reilly.
The Blues almost hit a second goal soon after but Brian Hogan’s snap-shot was well saved by Eddie McDonnell in the Rhode goal.
After a sluggish start Rhode eventually came into the game and they dominated the next 12 minutes scoring 2-6 without reply. The midfield battle importantly swung their way while the half-back line augmented the attack. Through this period Rhode played with great pace and Tullamore struggled to match them.
Niall McNamee, James Coffey and Niall Darby all pointed to get Rhode back within one and they blasted into the lead midway through the half when Niall McNamee slotted home the first of his two goals.
Mark Dunne and Pascal Kellaghan combined to put McNamee through one on one on Eoin Brennan and he rounded the isolated Tullamore ‘keeper before drilling the ball to the back of the net.
A point from Paraic Sullivan followed before McNamee buried home his second goal with Mark Dunne again involved in the build up with Eoghan Byrne supplying the final pass.
With Tullamore firmly on the ropes, Rhode continued to press adding points from Niall Darby and Eoghan Byrne to open up a 2-8 to 1-3 lead.
Tullamore clawed their way back slightly before the break with points from Johnny Moloney and Shane Dooley.
Moloney was moved to midfield after the restart and he played a sizeable part in Tullamore’s fightback.
A point from Shane Dooely was the only score in the first ten minutes of the second 30 minutes but Tullamore hit two goals in three minutes to blast their way into the lead.
A high ball from Brian Hogan was allowed to bounce close to the Rhode goal and the ball was eventually won by Shane Dooley who went down under the challenge of Shane Sullivan.
From a two step run up, Kevin Williamson rolled the ball to the bottom right corner of the Rhode net. Two minutes later Johnny O’Donoghue, Stephen Keogh and Brian Hogan combined to put Shane Dooley through again and this time he kept his feet to blast the ball past Eddie McDonnell to put Tullamore into the lead at 3-6 to 2-8.
Tullamore however failed to press on after taking back the lead and they managed just two further points in the final 17 minutes of the game.
After failing to score in the opening 15 minutes of the second-half and after hitting five wides, Rhode eventually found the target with Niall McNamee and James Coffey adding points in quick succession to edge their side back in front.
Kevin Williamson leveled the scores entering the final ten minutes and the sides were still locked together after the respective number nines Mark Dunne and Johnny O’Donoghue exchanged points.
With three minutes remaining, the scores were still level but an extra bit of effort from Mark Dunne in chasing down what looked like a lost cause and keeping the ball in resulted in a point for Niall McNamee.
Rhode kept the play at the Tullamore end in the closing minutes and McNamee added two further points in injury-time to seal the win.
Rhode: Eddie McDonnell; Shane Sullivan, Declan Murphy, Ciaran Heavey; Eoin Rigney, Brian Darby, Eoghan Byrne (0-1); Alan McNamee, Mark Dunne (0-2); James Coffey (0-2), Paraic Sullivan (0-1), Anton Sullivan; Niall Darby (0-3), Pascal Kellaghan, Niall McNamee (2-5).
Tullamore: Eoin Brennan; James Keane, Paul McConway, Ger Ward; Declan Hogan, Johnny Moloney (0-1), Mark Conlon; Kieran Hogan, Johnny O’Donoghue (0-1); Brian Hogan, Michael Brazil, Brian Francis (1-0); Kevin Williamson (1-3, 1-0pen, 0-1f), Briain O’Reilly, Shane Dooley (1-3, 0-1f). Subs: Ken Furlong for Eoin Brennan (27mins), Stephen Keogh for for Brian Francis (41mins), Kevin O’Brien for Kieran Hogan (54mins), Ronan Monaghan for Briain O’Reilly (57mins), Darren Flanagan for Mark Conlon (61mins)
Referee: Damian Brazil