Rhode and Tullamore can make Offaly Senior Football Final
THE Tullamore Court Hotel Senior Football Championship will move towards a conclusion with the semi-finals down for decision next weekend.
Tullamore and Ferbane will cross swords first in O'Connor Park on Saturday while favourites and champions, Rhode will take on surprise packets Durrow on Sunday.
Tullamore v Ferbane: Saturday, October 16 in O'Connor Park at 4.00pm
Tullamore may be slight favourites but their semi-final clash with Ferbane is as close to a 50/50 one as you can get and no result will be any sort of a surprise.
Ferbane are understrength and it is this factor that makes Tullamore favourites. Oisin Kelly, a fast, direct running forward, is out after doing his cruciate while Cian Johnson has been out for the season with a groin injury and it looks like another star forward, Joe Maher will be suspended for this one – Maher was sent off in their great quarter-final win over Edenderry and Ferbane will have to produce video evidence to get him back.
With three forwards of such quality missing, Ferbane should find the going tough but their win over Edenderry showed the quality they have at their disposal. They made a shocking start, trailing by 0-7 to 0-1 after a few minutes but recovered brilliantly to take the win – even the loss of Joe Maher along with Edenderry full back Eoin Dunne before half time didn't disrupt them.
You had to admire the way Ferbane went about their business. They really stood up to be counted, showing great character and were full value for their 3-11 to 0-14 win. Considering the players they were down, this was one of their greatest wins in recent years.
They were also without another forward Paddy Clancy, who was suspended but he will be back for the semi-final. Even with their absentees, Ferbane still have a potent forward line. U-20 star Cathal Flynn was brilliant against Edenderry, Jack Clancy got two goals, Ronan McGuire showed great intuition inside and Ferbane worked so hard as a unit.
Now they face Tullamore in a repeat of last year's semi-final. On that occasion Tullamore won on penalties and this game could be as tight as that. Tullamore topped their group to qualify directly for the semi-finals but there are doubts about their form. While they ran Rhode close in the final last year, they were outplayed for long periods before rallying late. In the past two years, Tullamore have been very competitive but last year, they lost to Cappincur, their semi-final win was on penalties and they beat a Clara side who were on their way to relegation.
This year they drew with Shamrocks and Edenderry in the group. They were brilliant in their win over Bracknagh but their opponents have been subsequently relegated. Their form has not exactly been compelling, yet they have a great chance of winning the Dowling Cup. The introduction of 2020 minors, John Furlong, Cormac Egan and Harry Plunkett has really improved Tullamore, U-20 defender, Oisin Keenan-Martin is now on the team and they are capable of playing fast, exciting football.
There are of course no guarantees with youth. They could win a championship with them leading the way but equally, their inexperience could show in the white heat of knockout battle. Time will tell but this should be one of the games of the year. It is likely to go right down to the wire.
Verdict – Tullamore.
Rhode v Durrow: Sunday, October 17 in O'Connor Park at 4.00pm
Durrow have added a great touch of excitement and romance to this year's championship. Their achievement in topping group 1 and qualifying direct for the semi-finals has really livened up the competition.
They had a shock win over Rhode in the first round and that has been the standout result of the campaign to date. They followed that up with an excellent performance when drawing with Ferbane. Durrow were the better team that day and should have won but it was still a very good result for them while a win over Cappincur put them directly into the semi-final.
Now Durrow face a renewal against Rhode and there is no doubt that they would have preferred to have got Tullamore in the semi-final. Not because they would regard Tullamore as the easier semi-final but they would rather not have faced Rhode again at this stage. That is the way it has gone, however, and Durrow will be confident of giving a very good account of themselves.
Rhode were missing a few players for that first round defeat but they have improved since then. They have looked vulnerable and are down key defenders in the injured Eoin Rigney and Jake Kavanagh while forward Paul McPadden was stretchered off in their quarter-final win over Shamrocks. Brian Darby was suspended for the Shamrocks win and will be back to bolster their defence here.
It is difficult to know what to make of Rhode but they looked very good in their win over Shamrocks. The Rahan parish men may have been poor on the day but there was something compelling about the way Rhode performed, the efficiency they displayed, their movement and the overall quality of their play. They remain the championship favourites and the team everyone else has to beat. They also have Niall McNamee in some of the best form of his long career – the star forward has been magical and Durrow will almost certainly double team him but doing that and stopping him from inflicting damage are two different things.
Durrow have earned the utmost of respect. They are clearly very hungry and have shown their intent by getting quality challenges against teams from other counties. They have performed really well and have a lot of exciting young players. The championship is crying out for new teams to emerge and Durrow have fulfilled that role. All neutrals would love to see them in the final but Rhode won't be sharing those sentiments.
Rhode are a serious team at this stage of a championship. While they could be taken yet. and serious questions will be asked of them before the championship is over, it is doubtful if Durrow can repeat their first round win. You never know but a second win for them will be as big a surprise as the first. Hopefully Durrow will be competitive anyway but very few people outside of their club will be putting money on anything other than a Rhode win.
Verdict – Rhode.
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