Classy Crokes to curb Rhode
But decider hangs in balance with pitch inspection
LEINSTER CLUB SFC FINAL
KILMACUD CROKES (Dublin) v RHODE (Offaly)
(Portlaoise, Tomorrow 2.30)
SEVEN weeks after it was first meant to happen, this long-awaited and early-anticipated showdown finally gets to happen. Or does it?
The footballers of Kilmacud and Rhode must wonder if they are cursed never to play this game which, at time of going to press, will only go ahead subject to another pitch inspection at 3pm this afternoon.
Back in December, the game was twice postponed because of the Arctic weather and now -- even without any snow -- it's under threat again because of the heavy frost that has struck much of Leinster, including Portlaoise.
The frustrating thing is that the sun was shining yesterday afternoon and O'Moore Park looked picture-perfect from the stand, but the surface itself was described as "quite hard" and hence the uncertainty.
Other potential venues may be looked at in the event that Portlaoise is unplayable, but even these aren't guaranteed if the cold snap continues.
Back to the match itself -- we hope. Kilmacud are favourites and, you may argue, justifiably so given their pedigree (All-Ireland champions of 2009), their strong mentality (check out all those second-half comebacks) and their renowned strength in depth.
Sufficient reason to make them favourites? Yes. But at odds of 2/5? Not in our humble estimation.
For several reasons, this could be a whole lot closer.
Firstly, Crokes are without the now obligatory handful of marquee players -- Messrs Griffin, Magee, Davoren, Corkery and possibly Rory O'Carroll (who could be on the bench).
So far, they've survived such heavyweight losses but you cannot discount the possibility that the absence of these players will eventually catch up on Crokes.
The second impediment comes in the formidable guise of Rhode.
Two years ago, leading by six points and with an extra man for three-quarters of the game, they conspired to lose a Leinster final to the same opposition.
For much of that Parnell Park contest, Rhode looked the better team but there are no prizes for artistic impression when it comes to winning provincial club finals in the middle of winter.
Rhode struggled at times with their form last autumn en route to reclaiming the Offaly title, but their Leinster semi-final performance against Skryne was arguably the best they had played all year.
That was two months ago, however, and you simply cannot second-guess how either team will cope with this prolonged competitive lay-off.
We're sticking with Crokes, tentatively, on the proviso that their vaunted defence can limit the scoring damage inflicted by Niall McNamee -- thereby allowing Brian Kavanagh and company to chisel out a narrow victory for the redoubtable Dublin champions.
ODDS: Kilmacud 2/5, Draw 15/2, Rhode 5/2