Paraic Sullivan moves the ball for Rhode. Picture Ger Rogers.
LIVING on their wits, running on fumes, almost on empty for extended periods, Rhode's experience, work ethic and ability to do the right thing in the white heat of battle saw them reach another Senior Football Championship final when they got the better of Ferbane in a penalty shootout in Tullamore on Saturday evening.
Tullamore Court Hotel Senior Football Championship semi-final
(Rhode won 3-2 on penalties after extra time)
Tied 0-12 to 1-9 at full time, 0-17 to 1-14 at the end of extra time, Rhode won 3-2 in a penalty shootout that really summed up much of what preceded it. The first four penalties were missed – Aaron Kellaghan and Paul McPadden for Rhode, Joe Maher and Cathal Flynn for Ferbane. After Kellaghan had his saved by Adam Nugent, Joe Maher's failure to beat Ken Garry and pile the pressure on was especially crucial. The next four were scored with Niall McNamee and Glen O'Connell converting for Rhode, Kevin Nugent and Sean Flynn replying for Ferbane.
Then goalkeeper Ken Garry emerged as Rhode's hero. He converted their fifth penalty and then saved Shane Nally's tame effort to send Rhode into the final against the winners of Tullamore and Edenderry.
It was a great win for Rhode, even though they will be the first to admit that their survival owed as much to a remarkably poor Ferbane display from half time onwards as their own brilliance. It was far from a super game of football but it was fiercely fought, compelling with more than enough to keep attention focused the whole way through.
There were plenty of talking points. Ferbane's Leon Fox was sent off in injury time at the end of normal time for cutting down Anton Sullivan as he raced onto an errant Kieran McManus pass. While some Ferbane supporters felt a black card would have been enough, he did take Sullivan out of it, his tackle was hard and it was did seem a red card offence - and the Rhode forward was stretchered off before Niall McNamee converted the free to force extra time: Fox is a tough, hard, very good player but he did not mean to hurt Sullivan and was genuinely sorry afterwards.
Funnily enough the red card actually worked out well for Ferbane, even though Fox would have been a cruel loss if they had reached the final. They would have been down to fourteen men for the first ten minutes of extra time had a black been shown but instead were allowed to restart with the full compliment with Adam Reams coming on instead of Fox – whose strength and power at centre half back was a big factor in them being so close.
Those final, dramatic, ludicrous seconds showed why Ferbane did not advance to the final. On the day, the game was there for the taking for them, Rhode were like an ageing heavyweight waiting for the knockout punch. Leading by a point in injury time and with Rhode, bizarrely having channeled the bulk of their team back to defence, Ferbane tried to play keep ball. They did so successfully until McManus gave a very wayward pass and Sullivan had his eye on goal when Fox cut him down.
That finished was typical of Ferbane's second half performance as they just made too many mistakes all over the field. Ferbane had played well in the first half and were full value for their 1-5 to 0-6 interval lead. They got 1-7 to 0-6 up five minutes into the second half and it was set up for them to win.
Instead they lost their way badly. They had ample ball but their error count crept dangerously high, their composure went out the window. They were sloppy in their tackles, fouling players who were going nowhere, they got caught in possession and they gave away too much ball very carelessly. Rhode knuckled down with everything they had, their work ethic was tremendous but their survival owed as much to Ferbane's ineptitude from the 35th minute on as anything they did.
Rhode got out of jail mainly because they made far less mistakes than their opponents. They had less possession and it was clear at times that some of their players are in their end game, not able to influence games the way they once could. You had to admire, however, the way they grafted when things went against them. They concentrated on trying to do the right thing, they only rarely gave away really bad ball and their tackling was better. That and a super display from Aaron Kellaghan after he came on helped them reach another final. Kellaghan had been introduced for Shane Lowry in the 23rd minute, he got one point before half time, one in the second half and one in each period of extra time.
It was a crucial intervention and his ability to pop up with points when Rhode needed them was crucial, though a couple of his passes to Niall McNamee were just a bit off. Anton Sullivan had started off like a high speed train with three points in seventeen minutes as he ran Ferbane ragged and while his influence did diminish after that, he did some excellent things, giving some quality passes.
Niall McNamee was tightly marked, quiet by his own high standards but still contributed powerfully with one point from play, two from marks and four frees. Ruari McNamee became increasingly influential as the game went on while Keith Murphy was excellent in their defence.
Ferbane will be wondering how they lost this game but they will know the reasons when they watch the recording of it. They have every chance to win but on a perfect day for football, they failed to score from the 35th minute until the 56th minute and their attacking play in that spell left a lot to be desired. David Nally was magnificent for them while Leon Fox was immense at centre half back, Paddy Clancy very useful in their attack. Cathal Flynn had threatened to be a game winner in the first half but just couldn't get going after half time – in fairness to him, he made the runs and players didn't deliver the ball in time. Darragh Flynn was lively and probing up front, Joe Maher only had sporadic moments in attack and Cian Johnson struggled to get going, though he did win two marks and get one from play. However, some of the play by Ferbane was nightmare stuff and some players won't remember this game fondly.
The first half was a very tight affair with Ferbane marginally the better side. The sides were level four times before a great Cathal Flynn goal gave Ferbane the initiative in the 22nd minute. Flynn raced through at pace and gave Ken Garry no chance with a super finish.
That goal helped Ferbane to a 1-5 to 0-6 interval lead and they got into a very strong position when Paddy Clancy (mark) and Joe Maher (free) got the opening points of the second half to put them four clear. Then it came apart at the seams for Ferbane. They didn't score again for 21 minutes and without doing anything special, Rhode had scored five on the trot to lead by 0-11 to 1-7 at that stage.
In fairness to Ferbane, their character and desire was beyond reproach. They kept pushing, driving, working. Johnson ended that drought with a mark and then a Maher free put them in front with two minutes left. They couldn't close it out and that McNamee free ensured extra time, 0-12 to 1-9.
Extra time couldn't separate them. They were level at 0-15 to 1-12 each at the end of the first period as both sides showed tired legs.
In the second period, Cian Johnson edged Ferbane in front, Rhode took the lead with a Niall McNamee free and Aaron Kellaghan point and a 79th minute free from Shane Nally levelled it up again. Ferbane had one last attack but didn't get the shot away and it was onto penalties where Rhode triumphed.
MAN OF THE MATCH
David Nally (Ferbane): Aaron Kellaghan was a real contender for Rhode while there was a lot to admire in Keith Murphy's corner back play and tackling. The choice is David Nally. Better known as a hurler, Nally really stood up to be counted. He got on a serious amount of ball in the second half in particular, attacked up his wing and was a big factor in Ferbane being so close.
Rhode: Niall McNamee 0-7 (4f and 2m), Aaron Kellaghan 0-4, Anton Sullivan 0-3, Ruari McNamee 0-2, Keith Murphy 0-1.
Ferbane: Shane Nally (3f), Cian Johnnson (2m) and Joe Maher (3f) 0-3 each, Cathal Flynn 1-1, Darragh Flynn 0-2 (1m), David Nally and Paddy Clancy (m) 0-1 each.
Rhode (3): Niall McNamee, Glen O'Connell and Ken Garry.
Ferbane (2): Kevin Nugent and Sean Flynn.
RHODE: Ken Garry; Keith Murphy, Gareth McNamee, Jake Kavanagh; Brian Darby, Conor McNamee, James McPadden; Dylan Kavanagh, Alan McNamee; Paraic Sullivan, Ruari McNamee, Ciaran Heavey; Shane Lowry, Anton Sullivan, Niall McNamee. Subs – Aaron Kellaghan for Lowry (27m), Paul McPadden for Paraic Sullivan (HT), Darren Garry for Heavey (56m), Glen O'Connell for Anton Sullivan, inj. (60 +5m), Ciaran Heavey for Conor McNamee (74m), Shane Sullivan for Garry (80m).
FERBANE: Adam Nugent; Conor Butler, Kevin Nugent, Michael Wren; David Nally, Leon Fox, Jack Egan; Kieran McManus, Bernard Corcoran; Cathal Flynn, Joe Maher, Shane Nally; Cian Johnson, Paddy Clancy, Darragh Flynn. Subs – Jack Clancy for Corcoran (43m), Sean Flynn for Darragh Flynn (57m), James Nally for McManus (60 + 3m), Adam Reams replaced the sent off Leon Fox for extra time, Darragh Flynn for Sean Flynn (FT), Sean Flynn for Clancy (73m), Mark Cahill for Egan (80m).
Referee – Marius Stones (Clara).
The sending off of Leon Fox will be debated by Ferbane but it was a quite dangerous looking tackle and Anton Sullivan was stretchered off. Marius Stones got most calls right – the decision to penalise Cathal Flynn for over carrying in the first half was debatable and on first viewing it looked like he didn't over carry but the referee was perfectly positioned. The big issue with Marius Stones' performance was the time allowed at the end of normal time. There was 61 and a half minutes on the clock when Anton Sullivan was fouled, it was the 65th minute when Niall McNamee tapped over the free and the final whistle was blown from the kickout. Four minutes injury time had been announced and at least another minute should have been played. He could have given a black card to Leon Fox as it could have been covered under that but it was also a fairly hard, ruthless one and you can't really argue with red.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Rhode's equalising point at the end of normal time was a huge moment and it is one that Ferbane will regret all winter.
O'Connor Park was in excellent shape.
The penalty shootout. It is a cruel way to lose a game and very hard on players. At the same time, there is merit in having a winner on the day with the split season as there is a very tight calendar for games - Ferbane also lost a semi-final penalty shootout to Tullamore a couple of years ago.WHAT'S NEXT
Rhode play Tullamore or Edenderry in the final.
Wides: Rhode – 7 (1 in first half, 4 in 2nd half, 2 in first period of extra time, 0 in 2nd period); Ferbane – 9 (3 in first half, 4 in 2nd half, 1 in first period of extra time, 1 in 2nd period).
Yellow cards: Rhode – 2 (Paraic Sullivan and Ciaran Heavey); Ferbane – 4 (Conor Butler, Jack Egan, Darragh Flynn and James Nally).
Black cards: 0.
Red cards: Rhode – 0; Ferbane – 1 (Leon Fox).
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