Antrim prevail in seven-goal thriller to leave Offaly facing relegation to Christy Ring

Antrim 3-23
Offaly 4-18

Kevin Egan reports from Bord na Mona O’Connor Park

ANTRIM ARE JUST one home win away from reaching the Joe McDonagh Cup final following their two-point win at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park this afternoon.

Offaly now need a favour from their neighbours Laois next weekend if their bid to avoid relegation to the Christy Ring Cup is to survive until the final round clash with Kerry.

New Offaly manager Joachim Kelly certainly got some measure of improvement from his team in the fortnight since taking over from Kevin Martin. But the team’s lack of self-belief and killer instinct was evident as they failed to take advantage of an extra man for 44 minutes of the contest.

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The manner in which Antrim completely took control of the tie, from the moment Oisín Kelly fired in a goal to edge Offaly a point up after 55 minutes, was hugely decisive.

A late surge from Offaly that saw them score 1-3 from the 68th minute onwards made it look as if they were just edged out. They could have got even more if Seán Cleary had made better contact on his goal-bound shot in the sixth minute of stoppage time, but in truth they can have no complaints.

The hosts were outplayed by an Antrim team that was led to victory by an inspirational performance from Neil McManus.

For large sections of the first half, the name of the game was survival for Antrim. After Martin Burke was sent off for pulling on a helmet in the ninth minute, they allowed Offaly sweeper Mark Egan to hoover up a lot of ball and the Faithful County moved from two points down to two points up very quickly.

Keelan Molloy goaled for Antrim but Oisín Kelly replied in kind for Offaly immediately. It took a second goal from Molloy to keep Antrim in the game, as players like Cillian Kiely, Peter Geraghty and Kevin Connolly started to fire over scores.

Antrim rallied before half time however to take a 2-10 to 1-11 interval lead, with James McNaughton taking two scores in as many minutes after being introduced. He and fellow sub Eoghan Campbell combined to shoot 0-7 from play overall.

Campbell pointed right from the second half throw in but Offaly then goaled through Joe Bergin, and the game was nip and tuck until midway through the half when Conor Mahon was red carded. Oisín Kelly hit a second goal to make it 3-15 to 2-17, and then Antrim went on a decisive run of scores.

The Saffrons rattled over six points in a row before Paddy Burke scythed through the home defence and set up Nigel Elliot, whose low finish was no less impressive.

With five minutes of normal time to play and the same amount of injury time, Offaly mounted one last surge. Substitute Seán Cleary struck a goal from a rebound, Joe Bergin added two frees and a ’65, and Offaly even engineered another late chance in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

But Cleary’s late chance wasn’t cleanly struck and it crept wide of the near post to condemn his side to a week of mental anguish, as they hope for a Laois win in Kerry next Saturday to preserve their remote chances of avoiding the drop.

For Antrim, they’ll enjoy home comfort against Westmeath with the Joe McDonagh Cup final in their sights.

Scorers for Antrim: Neil McManus 0-10 (0-7f), Keelan Molloy 2-0, Nigel Elliot 1-1, James McNaughton 0-4, Ciarán Clarke & Eoghan Campbell 0-3 each, Nicky McKeague & Joe Maskey 0-1 each.

Scorers for Offaly: Oisín Kelly 2-2, Joe Bergin 1-5 (0-3f, 0-2 ‘65s), Aidan Treacy 0-3, Sean Cleary 1-0, Peter Geraghty 0-2, Eoghan Cahill (f), Kevin Connolly, Cillian Kiely, Paddy Murphy & David Nally 0-1 each.

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1 Ryan Elliott

4 Phelim Duffin
19 Martin Burke
2 Stephen Rooney

20 Joe Maskey
5 Paddy Burke
7 Matthew Donnelly

9 Nicky McKeague
17 David Kearney

8 Neil McManus
11 Ryan McCambridge
12 Keelan Molloy;

15 Eoin O’Neill
18 Nigel Elliot
13 Ciarán Clarke.

25 Eoghan Campbell for McKeague (31, blood)
10 James McNaughton for O’Neill (35)
25 Eoghan Campbell for McCambridge (35)
3 John Dillon for Kearney (58)
21 Daniel McCloskey for Clarke (70+3).


1 Eoghan Cahill

2 Ben Conneely
3 Dermot Shortt
4 Pat Camon

5 Cillian Kiely
6 Shane Kinsella
7 Mark Egan

8 Aidan Treacy
9 Paddy Murphy

10 Colin Egan
11 Joe Bergin
12 Peter Geraghty;

15 Kevin Connolly
14 Oisín Kelly
13 Shane Dooley

22 Conor Mahon for C Egan (15)
23 David Nally for Shortt (Half time)
17 Sean Cleary for Dooley (Half time)
19 Kevin Dunne for Murphy (41)
24 David O’Toole Greene for Camon (49)

Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway)

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