James McPadden being tackled by Luke Egan.
There might have been just two points between the teams at the final whistle, but that wasn’t the only way in which Sunday’s county senior football final was a mirror image of the 2020 decider. In both cases, a late goal that arrived at the very end of the contest gave a false picture of a game where the winning side was far more dominant than the final score suggested, and Rhode manager Malachy McNulty knew it when he reflected on the contest.
“I don’t think we got going at all” said the Portlaoise man. “You have to give credit to Tullamore. They had a resolute and strong defence set up today, we just seemed a little flat. Hats off to Tullamore they deserved it on the day”.
For most of the first half, the game was going somewhat according to the Rhode script. Tullamore were expending a lot more energy on the field, yet the scoreboard was tight. 0-4 to 0-3 at half-time suggested that Rhode might find a bit more in the tank as the game went on, but the second phase of the plan didn’t quite work out.
“We had leaked a couple of goals early in the Championship and we wanted to ensure that didn’t happen. As the game would grow organically you would hope you would come out of that shell and play football in the second and third quarters but we didn’t get going on the whole” said McNulty.
“We were in a good space (at half-time). We just talked a little bit about being more clinical when we got over the gain line. Our possession count was up, our attacks were good. We were carrying it over the ’45 in to the opposition half quite a lot but we weren’t getting the finishing. That’s credit to Tullamore and how well they were set up defensively today.”
Unlike a fortnight previously, when Niall McNamee came to his rescue, there were no heroes to be found up front for Rhode this time out. Anton Sullivan worked hard throughout and Rúairí McNamee kicked three good points in the opening half, but outside of that, the forward line was a desolate, barren landscape for the Village.
“I suppose that comes down to where Tullamore were at today compared to ourselves. They had that little bit more energy, that little bit more pep in their step whereas we seemed stuck in third gear and we couldn’t get ourselves out of third gear. Why is that? We will have a solid reflection on it and see with the help of God if we can correct it.
“We felt there were major improvements we needed to make from the last day. We tried our best to address them, particularly in relation to unforced errors and being clinical in front of goal. The second one would require a lot of work, based on today’s evidence” was McNulty’s summary.
“It’s been a difficult year, there’s been a lot to deal with on and off the pitch. There’s been a good couple of injuries to deal with as well. Overall they are just a fabulous group of guys who give you everything on and off the field and you can’t ask for anything more from them. There’s nobody dead or anything, it’s sport. We will lick our wounds and life goes on”.
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