A race to secure possession with Rhode’s Keith Murphy and Pauric Sullivan competing with Tullamore’s Michael Brazil and Aaron Leavy during the Offaly SFC final last Sunday week.

Have Tullamore missed their chance to dethrone Rhode?

All the accepted wisdom regarding big match replays would suggest that Rhode won’t give Tullamore a second chance this Sunday afternoon in Bord na Mona O'Connor Park (throw-in 2pm).

The town side were five points up and a man up with a strong wind behind them in the second half of the drawn match, and since then Alan McNamee has been reprieved from suspension and Tullamore have had their focus diverted to matters pertaining to senior hurling and U-20 football.

Yet here’s the thing. In the 2020 county final, there was a late goal as well, but anybody who was there for the game knew that the late strike didn’t change how comfortable Rhode were in the second half of that game. Malachy McNulty’s side were vastly superior to Tullamore 12 months ago, and this time around, it was only a combination of their big-game know-how and Tullamore’s failure to press home their advantage that brought about this Sunday’s replay.

Yes, switching focus to other competitions doesn’t help, but for those who were involved in either of the games against Clara (hurling) and Na Fianna (U-20), they will have taken energy from the fact that the club enjoyed meaningful victories in those contests, and nothing does more to ease the pain of disappointment than moving on with a big championship win.

Moreover, it’s easier for Tullamore to identify areas where they can do better in terms of tactics and approach. Running in straight lines at the Rhode defence and keeping the tempo high is clearly the way to success and more of that is likely to yield dividends, whereas there are no real easy answers for McNulty to the same extent. The Portlaoise man will instead be asking a lot of his big name players to step up on an individual level, particularly up front.

Niall McNamee came to his club’s rescue at the end, as he has been doing for so many years, but across the board, more will be expected of every other player who wore a double-digit green and yellow shirt a fortnight ago. The half-forward line in particular will need to step up and deliver the goods much more emphatically, even if that just means putting their direct opponents on the back foot.

Likewise, Alan McNamee’s availability will be a huge boost to Rhode, both psychologically and in football terms, but there is no doubt that Rhode will have to find ways to get much more mobility into their game at midfield. Whether that means McNamee dropping into a deeper role and someone like his cousin Conor stepping up into the middle remains to be seen, but as things stand Tullamore will feel that exorcising their mental demons will be the top priority in bringing their game to another level.

Rhode, arguably, have a lot more reshuffling to do if they’re to bring their overall performance to another level.

McNamee red card decision divides opinion

The issue of whether Alan McNamee’s red card in the drawn county final should have been rescinded or not divided the county, with even neutrals torn on whether or not the hit was worthy of a red card.

This column is not about to weigh in on the rights and wrongs of the call, except to say that it might be of benefit in terms of transparency and better understanding for the future if every decision taken at a hearing of this nature was accompanied by an explainer, much like a court ruling.

If a yellow card would have been sufficient, surely that’s worth knowing for future reference. Equally, if a player has been reprieved because he’s deemed to have been entirely innocent, is there not merit in making that clear, and drawing a distinction between that group, and those who get off because of a rules technicality?

Perhaps something to consider at this time of year, when motions for convention are being discussed in clubhouses all over Ireland.

- Kevin Egan