Ferbane’s James Nally shrugs aside the challenge of Bracknagh’s Conor Melia during their recent Offaly SFC quarter-final. Ferbane face county champions Rhode this weekend. Photo: Ger Rogers

Tullamore and Rhode likely to set up another final showdown

By Kevin Egan

It’s football semi-final weekend in the senior ‘A’, intermediate and junior championships - but not at senior ‘B’ level due to Gracefield’s successful appeal against the final placings at the end of the round robin stages of their championship.

With that situation involving Gracefield still causing controversy, as for action on the pitch, much and all as we might like some variation, it’s hard to look past the likelihood of a fourth consecutive Rhode versus Tullamore senior football final.

Ferbane will be seen as having the greater chance of causing an upset, and with good reason after they pushed Rhode all the way to a penalty shootout in the same fixture in 2022.

However it would be a stretch to say that Ger Rafferty’s side look any better in 2023 than they did last year. Also, issues such as David Nally’s ongoing injury concerns, not to mention the general air of disappointment in the parish on the back of a dismally flat Belmont performance last weekend, means that they will do well to get back to that level.

Some key Rhode players might be coming to the end of their careers, but the return of Eoghan Rigney and Niall Darby is an immediate boost to their chances, and they’ve looked comfortable so far in 2023. They look to be three or four points better this year and should come through.

Tullamore also look like they’re that bit further on. Questions remain about their scoring power close to goal while the loss of John Moloney is obviously very significant, but their young cohort are all a year stronger, a year more experienced, and in some cases, a lot less affected by injury.

A fully-fit, cohesive and tuned in Edenderry side would still cause them a lot of problems, but there’s no evidence to suggest that’s what we’ll see on Sunday. A wonderful comeback against Durrow doesn’t negate quite how bad they had to be to fall so far behind, and while Ferbane should still push Rhode quite close, we’d have no such confidence in Edenderry doing the same.

At intermediate level, it looks to be falling into place for Daingean, which is historically when things have gone wrong for the club. However on the basis of the quality of their play, their energy and sharpness up front, and that Tullamore really only looked like championship contenders during their game against Raheen, we’ll back them to prevail.

If there is an upset, it’ll be on the other side, where Erin Rovers should be suited by a tight and tense game in Ballinagar against St Brigid’s. The Croghan club have scored quite well this year and would probably have preferred to have their game moved into Glenisk O’Connor Park once they heard that the Senior ‘B’ games weren’t taking place, as it’s hard to see Erin Rovers scoring more than 12 or 13 times. In Tullamore, that wouldn’t be enough, but in Ballinagar, it might.

In the JFC, Doon needed to win their last round game against Edenderry in the group stages, and the Reds didn’t. On Friday night, it would be no huge surprise if that result was reversed in their semi-final.

And on Sunday, Clodiagh Gaels look like the safer bet against an inconsistent Kilcormac-Killoughey team, albeit there is no result that could be ruled out here – draw, narrow win for either side, ten-point landslide either way, it’s all on the table.