Football games are often won and lost on a slice of luck or a moment of genius. Both applied for Skryne at Pairc Tailteann on Sunday as their Leinster Club SFC voyage came to a disappointing end at the semi-final stage against Offaly champions Rhode.
Both the slice of luck and the moment of genius went Rhode’s way. Niall McNamee’s 14th minute goal had a huge element of good fortune about it and Roy Malone’s goal with just three minutes remaining was in the genius category.
There appeared to be little danger when Mark Dunne pumped a long ball forward from inside his own half, but Mark Jordan mis-judged the flight of the ball and watched it bounce over his head and into the waiting arms of Niall McNamee. The Offaly man took advantage, rounded Felim O’Rourke and blasted to the net.
That was a stunning blow for Liam Harnan’s side and one which left them with a mountain to climb. To their credit, and in typical Skryne fashion, they showed remarkable resilience in the face of excellent Rhode dominance to claw their way back to within a point with three minutes remaining.
Rhode were rocked by Kevin Mulvaney’s 54th minute goal that closed the gap to a point, 1-10 to 1-11. However, Rhode stuck to their game plan and fashioned a masterful move that cut the Skryne defence open and laid on a simple goal for Malone to fist to the net.
Malone’s execution, at the end of a superb move, reminded many of how he tormented Meath with two goals in the 1997 Leinster SFC final. The 34-year-old wasn’t fit to start, but his impact when introduced in the 53rd minute was immense.
Aside from the unlucky bounce that deceived Jordan and the odd refereeing decision that didn’t go their way, Skryne can have few complaints. Rhode were the better team. Aidan Tuite and Paddy O’Rourke worked hard at midfield, but Alan McNamee and Dunne dominated that sector.
Skryne won very little breaking ball as Rhode swept up possession and ran at the heart of the Skryne defence, which was over-worked.
Niall McNamee gave Jordan a torrid opening 30 minutes and it was only when Ciaran Lenehan was deployed on the Rhode danger man that his input was limited.
Forcing Lenehan onto Niall McNamee reduced the talented centre-back’s attacking game and Skryne suffered.
Mark Battersby and Kevin Mulvaney were lively, but they were well controlled. Trevor Giles was outstanding again, but he couldn’t inspire his colleagues who were second to most breaking balls and kicked some poor wides.
Ian Davis was immaculate from frees, but a return of just 1-3 from play wasn’t good enough from Skryne as Niall McNamee matched that total from play and was a constant threat, even when marshalled by Lenehan.
The early indications were that the large crowd were in for a tight contest as a brace of frees from Davis eclipsed Niall Darby’s opener. Anton Sullivan made it 0-2 each when he drove over a great goal chance, but an indication of Skryne’s wayward shooting came when Paddy O’Rourke shot a 13-metre free from a tight angle woefully wide.
A minute after that miss Rhode hit their first goal with Jordan was reduced to watching the ball hit the net after it had hopped over his head.
Mulvaney replied instantly with an excellent point, but a six-minute purple patch yielded points from Sullivan, Niall Darby, David Hope and Niall McNamee as Rhode moved 1-6 to 0-3 ahead. That lead could have been more, but Hope opted for a point when the goal was gaping.
Skryne were on the backfoot, but Davis claimed a third free - it was only a brief respite. An error from Lenehan resulted in Niall McNamee restoring Rhode’s six-point cushion.
Battersby almost got in for a goal when he raced onto James Looby’s short point attempt, but he couldn’t retain possession and the half chance was gone. He closed the gap to 0-5 to 1-7 before the break with an excellent point as Skryne sought to get back in the game.
A poor clearance by Felim O’Rourke two minutes after the resumption gifted a point to Niall Darby, but three frees from Davis and an excellent point from Tuite boosted Skryne and closed the gap to 0-9 to 1-8 at the end of the third-quarter.
A careless free, conceded by Looby, allowed Niall McNamee settle Rhode and then moments later more poor defending saw Alan McNamee and Niall McNamee increase the visitors lead to 1-11 to 0-9.
All hope looked lost for Skryne. They had worked so hard to close the gap to two points, but then conceded a couple of soft scores.
Paddy O’Rourke’s successful '45’ kept the flicker of ambition burning and when Brian Darby failed to deal with a Davis short free Mulvaney pounced to finished the ball to the net and gave Skryne real hope, 1-10 to 1-11.
A pulsating closing seven minutes went Rhode’s way. A clever free from Alan McNamee set in place a chain of passing that involved Glen O’Connell and Sullivan and ended with Malone fisting to the net to break Skryne hearts and end their glorious year on a disappointing note.
Rhode - E McDonald; D Murphy, B Darby, D Hope (0-1); C Heavey, S Sullivan, E Byrne; A McNamee (0-1), M Dunne; N Darby (0-3, one free), P Sullivan, A Sullivan (0-2); G O’Connell, P Kellaghan, N McNamee (1-4, one free). Sub - R Malone (1-0) for P Sullivan 52 mins.
Skryne - F O’Rourke; A Curry, D Beaton, M Jordan; J Looby, C Lenehan, J Hegarty; A Tuite (0-1), P O’Rourke (0-1 '45’); D McGoldrick, T Giles, I Davis (0-6 frees); K Mulvaney (1-1), B Byrne, M Battersby (0-1). Subs - B Davis for Byrne 43mins, P Fox for McGoldrick 52m, V O’Reilly for Hegarty 58m.
Referee - Maurice Deegan (Laois).