Rhode run of success set to continue
previews: county finals
OFFALY SFC FINAL
RHODE v EDENDERRY
(Tullamore, Tomorrow 3.30)
NEAR neighbours usually equate to deadly rivals. These old foes neatly fit the bill.
That was certainly the case in the late nineties and early noughties, when they clashed in three finals during a four-year period. Edenderry shaded those duels 2-1, but since then the balance has tipped firmly the other way and Rhode haven't lost to their rivals in SFC combat since 2001.
In the same period they've amassed six county titles whereas Edenderry were even briefly relegated to intermediate - in 2006 - but completed an impressive comeback by shocking Clara to land their last senior crown, three years ago.
This year, Edenderry have played some of the best football in Offaly but Rhode still enter in the familiar role of favourites. That may be partly down to pedigree, but also a reflection of the respective semi-final form graphs - Edenderry were pushed most of the way before seeing off Gracefield, 0-13 to 0-9, whereas Rhode delivered a first-half forward exhibition en route to overwhelming Clara, 0-18 to 0-11.
As ever, to somehow stop Niall McNamee is the daunting conundrum for the underdog's defence. Another worry for Edenderry is the shoulder injury being carried by their captain, Richie Dalton. The midfielder is likely to start but can he survive the full hour?
ODDS: Rhode 2/5, Draw 15/2, Edenderry 5/2
WICKLOW SFC FINAL
RATHNEW v ST PATRICK'S
(Aughrim, Tomorrow 3.15)
RATHNEW amassed eight senior titles on the spin between '96 and '03. Since then, they've 'only' won four of the last ten. A veritable crisis! Except, of course, they are once more reigning champions.
They are also favourites to go back-to-back, albeit the odds are marginal enough and St Patrick's have plenty of championship-winning experience in their ranks, the most recent success coming just two years ago.
Ominously, perhaps, Rathnew manager Declan Byrne was quoted this week as saying the holders we're "still building", adding: "I think we're a steadier team than we were last year."
That said, Baltinglass looked the more likely winners for long periods of their semi-final against Rathnew, who had to call on their renowned never-say-die qualities to pull through in the last ten minutes.
ODDS: Rathnew 4/6, Draw 13/2, Pat's 13/8