RHODE ARE BIDDING to become the first Offaly club in 30 years to take home the Leinster SFC club title, and they’ll have to do it without two key players on Sunday.

Anton Sullivan and Jake Kavanagh jetted off on the Defence Forces’ tour of the Lebanon last month, prior to Rhode’s semi-final win over Louth champions Sean O’Mahony’s.

The Village made every effort to organise the return of the duo for the provincial decider against Dublin kingpins St Vincent’s, but it appears their efforts have come up short.

“It’s not looking good no,” said Rhode skipper Niall McNamee at the AIB GAA Leinster Football Club Championship Final Media Day.

In fairness the lads have been working hard to get them back, but no. Reports came back there at the weekend that it’s not going to happen.”

The 2013 All-Ireland club champions St Brigid’s played their recent Connacht final defeat to Corofin without Ian Kilbride, who’s a higher ranking member of the Irish Army in the Lebanon.

Ultimately, that worked against Rhode’s hopes of bringing Sullivan and Kavanagh home, according to McNamee.

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“I think the fact that Ian Kilbride was away, he’s in the Lebanon as well, and he wasn’t back for last weekend, I think that’s after counting against them,” continued the 31-year-old.

I think the fact they’ve only recently gone, they probably weren’t going to let them back that early.”

“Look, we knew they were going away, we’ve been planning all along that we weren’t going to be back. That was in our plan so it is what it is. We just move on from it.

Rhode and Offaly star Anton Sullivan.

Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

“To be honest it’s tough on the boys,” added McNamee. “I can only imagine what it’s going to be like for them during the game on Sunday, trying to listen in online or do whatever. It’s going to be tough but we knew a good few weeks ago that they were gone. Other lads have stepped up in training, get their chance and that’s it.

“There was that bit of hope that they were going to be back but I think it was Saturday or Sunday that word came through to say, ‘no they won’t be coming.’

The absence of Offaly forward Sullivan is a particular blow to Rhode, who will miss his energy and pace around the middle third.

Especially this time of year when the ground gets a bit heavier, he seems to get faster which is unusual. But he’s been playing really well. From semi-final, county final on he’s been playing great stuff. They were devastated going.

“But that’s come up short. It’s dissapointing but we’ve expected it. In terms of our own camp there’s been no negativity around it because we expected them not to be here. We just plough on, boys step in and away we go.”

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