RHODE and Ferbane will meet in the Tullamore Court Hotel Senior Football Championship for the third time in four years but the big talking point last weekend was a fractious and controversial semi-final between Clara and Rhode.
Three players were sent off in the first half, five yellow cards were flashed by referee Eamon O'Connor and two of Rhode's star performers, Brian Darby and Niall McNamee went off injured, sporting head bandages as they watched on from the sideline – McNamee in paricular looked badly shook as he wobbled a couple of times while being assisted to the sideline.
Clara were the chief instigators of that unsavoury first half, trying to rattle Rhode with a hard, all out approach but getting it wrong as they committed a number of over the top, rash and in some cases, dangerous fouls.
Clara's Scott Brady and Thomas Deehan were red carded during the first half while Rhode's Conor McNamee joined them in injury time after clashing with Clara defender Seamus O'Brien. There were a number of lengthy delays as players received treatment and nine minutes of injury time were played.
Rhode had came storming out of the blocks and goals from Niall McNamee and Anton Sullivan had them 2-1 to 0-1 ahead after five minutes. They led by 2-5 to 0-2 at half time and went onto win by 2-9 to 0-9, though Clara missed three great goal chances and could have went very close to the win – the second half was almost a surreal anti-climax as Clara concentrated on playing football and it all drifted out with a whimper.
Niall McNamee and Brian Darby are reported to be recovering satisfactorily from their injuries and they will take their place for Rhode in the final against Ferbane on October 13. Rhode are likely to appeal the red card that Conor McNamee received but will have to prove that he did not strike O'Brien to get it rescinded.
Ferbane will enter the final with high hopes of ending their long famine, dating back to 1994. They have already beaten Rhode in the group stages and the league final this year, and they played very well in their semi-final on Saturday. Edenderry had been the form team in the championship prior to that but didn't find top gear on the day and Ferbane were full value for their 1-15 to 1-9 win. Once again Cian Johnson and Joe Maher were in great form for Ferbane, scoring nine points between them while Aidan Keenaghan got the goal and Jack Clancy came off the bench to kick three crucial points.
The final on Sunday, October 13 will be preceded by the minor final between Na Fianna and the winners of Tullamore and Clara, which is now fixed for next Tuesday night after their game was postponed on Monday because of the weather.
The Senior “B” and Intermediate Football Championship finals are fixed for Saturday, October 12. Ballycumber and Bracknagh will meet in the senior B while Shannonbridge await the winners of a replay between St Rynagh's and Clonbullogue in the intermediate.
Ballycumber staged a powerful late rally to surprise fancied Durrow by 1-11 to 0-13 in their senior B semi-final on Sunday. Ballycumber's win came at a cost as their captain John Egan was red carded near the end, apparently for something he said to the referee Chris Dwyer. Bracknagh were absolutely brilliant as they demolished a shell shocked Tubber by 4-19 to 1-10 on Saturday.
Shannonbridge booked their intermediate final place with a hard earned but deserved 1-14 to 2-8 win over Kilcormac/Killoughey in Tubber on Friday night. The other semi-final between Clonbullogue and St Rynagh's ended in a 1-12 each draw on Sunday.
That replay has also been fixed for next Tuesday and is a very hard fixture on St Rynagh's as they have a number of players out in the Senior Hurling Championship semi-final against Belmont on Saturday. However, the Offaly GAA Games Administration Committee are under pressure to get the intermediate completed on schedule as the winners play in the Leinster junior championship and they have put the replay down for Tuesday with the final pencilled in for the Saturday.
See inside for comprehensive reports of all the weekend's activity.