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Preview: AIB Leinster SFC Final - St Vincent's v Rhode
Sunday December 11
AIB Leinster Club SFC Final
St Vincent's Dublin v Rhode Offaly, O'Moore Park, 2pm
By Cian O'Connell
Preparing for a fifth Leinster Final since 2006, Rhode remain a remarkable club, making the most from their resources.
The only problem for the Offaly standard bearers is that they have been beaten in the previous four deciders by Moorefield 2006, Kilmacud Crokes 2008 and 2010, and St Vincent's 2014.
Managed by the well regarded Paschal Kellaghan Rhode have impressed recently. The manner in which they dealt with a promising Ferbane team in the County Final confirmed how industrious Rhode can be as they secured an eighth Offaly crown in 13 years.
Inevitably the McNamees, Alan and Niall, have occupied central roles for Rhode, who are completely aware that St Vincent's will represent a formidable challenge.
While Rhode have been very much the team to beat in Offaly, Vincent's won a third Dublin title in four years.
Ballyboden St Enda's defeated Vincent's in the 2015 Final, but Vincent's have responded to that setback admirably.
Diarmuid Connolly carries a potent threat, while Tomas Quinn is a capable finisher so Rhode will need to be diligent defensively.
Anton Sullivan and Jake Kavanagh aren't expected to be available due to work commitments with the Defence Forces which is a significant blow for Rhode.
Niall McNamee is encouraged by former colleague Kellaghan's work with Rhode. "In terms of this year, nothing will change in our approach or preparation for the game," McNamee says. "Obviously Paschal came in this year as manager and he's after bringing in a huge freshness to it.
"All the backroom team as well. It's been a very, very enjoyable year from a training point of view. We never really set ourself any target in terms of where we wanted to go, it was more or less let's see, let's train ourselves at a level and try and train ourselves at a level we've never trained at.
"And see where it takes us. Obviously by then just taking the cliche one game at a time, which is exactly what we did. It's brought us to this point, so I don't think in terms or preparation anything much is going to change."
Rhode manager Paschal Kellaghan.
McNamee stresses the manner in which Rhode have prepared for the challenge. "Fitter or maybe fresher I'd say would be the word. I think we've trained very smart this year. There's a lot of miles on the clock there with a lot of lads. I think we've seven or eight lads in on the county panel and a lot of those guys would have been back training from last November.
"To still be going at this stage takes its toll. I think when lads needed a couple of weeks away or a break here or here, they were granted it always with a view of improving the team.
"It wasn't going to be something where lads were going away for the sake of going away. It was always with a view of lads refreshing and regenerating themselves and then coming back in and driving the thing on. We're moving well, lads are in good shape.
"We've a lot of pace in the team as well, but I just think in terms of freshness lads are just at the top of the ground ready to go every night in training and for games as well."
At the exact same stage in 2014 Vincent's seized control early with Rhode soundly defeated. "We didn't start well," McNamee admits.
"In the first 10 or 15 minutes we were very poor, lot of handling errors, basic mistakes that we wouldn't be happy with. Obviously that'll be something that we'll look at this week, how can we change things up a little bit to ensure that that doesn't happen. Lads are looking forward to it, these days don't come around too often. It's a long road to get back here like. Even in terms of winning our own Championship, it's difficult.
"The hardest thing we find about the Leinster Championship is winning the Offaly Championship. To actually get out of Offaly because it is very competitive when it comes to semi-final and final stage, a lot of local rivalries and things like that. When we actually get out we can kind of let the shackles off a small bit so in terms of Sunday, yeah, absolutely, looking back we'll hope to eradicate a lot of those basic mistakes and give ourselves a fighting chance in the first 10 or 15 minutes."