Rhode vs Portlaoise

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Rhode vs Portlaoise

Postby Lone Shark » Mon Nov 08, 2004 7:51 pm

Watching our various administrative feck ups over the past few months has been horrendous enough viewing, but I don't think I've ever seen an Offaly football team, club or county, fold like Rhode yesterday, and it was by far the most disappointing single thing to have happened over the last unpleasant 6 months.

On this board and elsewhere I've been the first to laud Rhode's outstanding football this year, and when the record books are compiled they'll look back on 2004 as a year where they got the Dowling monkey off their backs, and were the dominant force in Offaly at both senior and U-21 grade - (notwithstanding some excellent support from some Brigid's lads in U-21). However yesterdays display was much more appalling than basic inadequacy, or even ineptitude, which many of those looking at the scoreboard would mistake it for. It was downright cowardice, where despite the fine contributions and laudable attempts of several in the side, the club and county were hugely let down by several players with neither the stomach for a fight or the inclination to compete and do themselves justice. Above all, the sickening aspect of this is that this is a young side, and usually when you see this sort of thing on a football pitch it's down to young, talented players not putting in the hard graft when things are going against them, and dropping the heads. In this case that was far from the truth – this Rhode team was let down by those that should have been its’ leaders, the senior players that have been stalwarts not only at club but at county level in the past.

In mitigation, it must be said that although Portlaoise were by far the better side, they got every break going, and this served to both chip away at Rhode’s albeit feeble resistance, and sustain the Leix men’s effort. However this was a club side who had to sustain the loss of two county panelists, so in that respect the books were possibly being balanced.

The early signs were quite positive – an even share of ball at midfield, but Rhode’s use of their share was quite intelligent, hit early and into space for Paschal and Niall to feed off. Niall took two fine scores early on and looked like the confident player we’ve seen all Autumn. Portlaoise were almost ten minutes getting on the board, and looked unsettled until they did. Then came the first horrendous mess – the ball broke in front of Kavanagh (Rhode Goalie) where he could have slid down on it and risked handling outside the area, or attempt to pick legally, or just put his boot through it. Not unreasonably, with Parkinson bearing down, he chose the latter – but instead of going for safety out the wings, he attempted to go down the middle, and it rebounded off what appeared to be Parkinson’s knee, and rolled into the net. A woeful goal to concede, but still more than early enough to recover from. The scores never seemed to come though, as Portlaoise dropped an extra man in to cover ball going in to Niall and Paschal, and as Niall was getting suffocated, Paschal was getting lazier. Not only was he nowhere to be seen in terms of getting out in front of the defender, he was giving away a succession of fouls and letting Portlaoise get the ball out of the danger area without any pressure. In the absence of any threat from him, three scores by half time was all that was mustered.

It was just before half time that Portlaoise got their second big break of the match. One of their forwards, Brian McCormack I believe, but I’m not certain, was going for a ball with David Bannon, Rhode centre back and captain. To be fair it did look like Bannon was fouling him going for the ball, but the end result was McCormack was on the ground and Bannon won the ball and played it away. As Bannon turned back, McCormack, still on the ground, delivered a hard uppercut to the, ahem, private area of Bannon. Play went on, and the crowd were baying abuse. After a stoppage, the Ref talked to his linesman and inexplicably gave a yellow card. Presumably testes have to be removed or something in order for it to warrant a red. Anyway, a yellow was issued, and Bannon, obviously enough, had to go off injured. A big swing moment, as in hindsight he could have been the kind of player to keep Rhode from folding so cheaply as they did.

The start of the second half saw the expected Rhode push to get back into it, but they kicked three or four wides without scoring, whereas Portlaoise were taking the few chances they were getting. Two incidents straight on the back of one another then turned the game from competitive to dead duck. Kavanagh took a handpass, and went for another big booming clearance under pressure – same result. Craig Rogers blocked the ball down and the ball rolled into the net. Suddenly this left 8 points between the teams. Anyone can make mistakes, but for Kavanagh to basically repeat the same mistake was unforgivable. This left it at 2-5 to 0-3, and while still at this scoreline a few moments later Roy Malone ran at goals and was fouled roughly at the 21. It was a rough foul, seemed deliberate, but even so a man who has been playing senior club for roughly a decade should be long enough in the game to know to get up, chip the ball over the bar and go again. Not at all – a petulant Beckham-esque kick while lying on the ground, granted barely even making contact, resulted in an eminently fair red card, and the free turned to a throw in. Dead game from then on, and this was where Rhode went from a team who didn’t have a good day to a team that let themselves down. They started niggling, losing whatever shape they had, and managing to find themselves outmanned at both ends of the pitch as players tended to wander like lost sheep throughout the middle. Portlaoise used the ball well, took good high percentage shots from good positions, and totted up the scores. All in all it has to be said in a match that could have degenerated in to a squabble, their players took the high road, and deserve respect for doing so. (One dishonorable exception being the Brophy lad who came on as sub, clearly with the express instruction to rattle cages and throw shoulders.)

From a Rhode perspective, you’d imagine with such a scoreline that very few players would emerge with credit - not so. The entire full back line were dogged and competitive all day, with Mark Cassidy in particular looking very good. Shane Sullivan was clearly feeling the effects of the injury that kept him out of the county U-21 final the previous week, but still burst himself trying to plug holes and keep the damage to a minimum. Bannon played well until he had to go off, and Barry Malone still looks to me like a man who could feature yet, but still has a long way to go. The difficulty he had trying to mark Parkinson showed that, although in yesterday’s form Parkinson would have been a challenge for any player. Alan Mac caught some good balls in midfield and generally used them well enough, and Niall never stopped trying to make things happen, and his own tally of 3 points from play plus the only free Rhode got was far from a disgrace. The penalty wasn’t great, but these things will happen. The rest however was a mix of the bad performances and the just-not-good-enoughs. In the latter category, Dunne, Derek Kelleghan, David Hope and Padraig Sullivan all looked like they were trying to make an impact on the game but didn’t have the wherewithal to do so. In Offaly club football every club has their share of these, but in the greater scheme these players get exposed. Paul Glennon dropped his head early and often, and was outfought several times by a smaller opponent. Paschal was at his headless worst, and earned one yellow card and could easily have got a second for persistent petulant fouling, while Roy’s rush of blood cost the team whatever comeback chance they had. I had forgotten Joe Kilmurray used to be on the county panel until Bord na Mona man reminded me. Certainly nothing he did would have indicated that he ever was a good club player, let alone county. And to top it off, in came Chino, who was the usual conglomeration of needless jostling and fouling along with dropping the football. These lads should all be apologizing to their team mates in my eyes.

As for Portlaoise, I know Delaney won’t feature this side of Christmas, but Ian Fitzgerald is a big addition for their semi with Kilmacud, and will be a real weapon. Adding him in yesterday would have led to untold extra damage. Generally the side on the field was skilled and competent, with outstanding displays from the Woolly man (amusing incident at the end where Laois fans were taking exception to a few off colour Parkinson jibes from Rhode lads, and right on cue the tannoy announced him as man of the match to great cheers and all round mirth), Rogers, McNulty and Barry Fitzgerald up front, Kevin Fitzpatrick ruling the roost at midfield, and Colm Byrne utterly peerless at the back. Their half back line as a unit also controlled the ball well going forward, though a harder more disciplined tackling outfit could punish their sometimes ponderous delivery forward. Weight of money and superstar factors will have Kilmacud favourites, but personally I’ll look forward to that game. Certainly either of them have the makings of a better team than has emerged from Leinster in recent years.
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Postby Bord na Mona man » Mon Nov 08, 2004 8:24 pm

Ideally Rhode needed to be 4 or 5 points up at half time.
The first goal knocked the wind out of them. The previous 10 minutes of grafting, possession and territorial domination was wiped out by one bad mistake.

Rhode's attacking was often one-dimensional and poor. A lot of time they tried to drive down through the middle and eventually gave away the ball when they were closed down. Some overlapping wing play might have helped.
After being opened up in the first few minutes Portleix wisely kept an extra man back on the full back line and held numerical advantage in there.
At this point Rhode probably should have opted for the conventional 3 man inside line, since they had the wind and the onus was on them to deliver the ball in around the goals asap.

Bannon was a loss at centre back, but it still wasn't lost at half time with Rhode only 2 behind.
It was a pity to see so many players completely give up after the second goal went in. For the third goal, any one of three unmarked Portleix players could have collected the rebound from the Kavanagh's initial save.
Having taken plenty of punishment from backs over the years, Roy Malone should be experienced enough not to lash out like he did. He probably had thrown his hat at it by this stage.

Sadly Rhode gave the impression of being a sunshine team who are at their best when cycling downhill with the wind at their backs. The facile nature of their wins in Offaly might have softened them. Although undoubtedly deserved county champions, I suspect some of the more dogged club sides in Offaly would have provided a stiffer test for Portleix.
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