Saturday 24 June 2017

Dooley holds nerve to spare Offaly's blushes

OFFALY 2-26
ANTRIM 3-16
(After extra-time)

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Shane Dooley rescued 14-man Offaly from a humiliating exit and prevented a historic Connacht v Ulster Leinster semi-final, with a last-gasp free to send this quarter-final into extra-time.

The corner-forward kept his cool under serious pressure to send over the equaliser with virtually the last puck to give the Faithful a second chance as the clock ticked into the fifth minute of added-time.

From then on, Offaly's fitness levels and experience told at Parnell Park and the Saffrons were denied the shock of the summer thus far.

Offaly manager Joe Dooley was relieved to have seen his side recover, but with a semi-final against Galway just three weeks away, he admitted that his side need huge improvements.

"We'd be fearful of going in to play Galway after a performance like that," he said. "I went down to Nowlan Park to see them and they were awesome.

"They beat Wexford by 11 points with 14 men -- and Wexford have a powerful, strong team. So we know we have to improve.

"Antrim were being written off over the last couple of days in the media and it was very, very unfair.

"Probably our Division 1 experience told in extra-time and maybe our bench is that little bit stronger as well."

Tempers

Shane Dooley's free was followed by a coming together of the rival managers as tempers rose, although they both played down the incident afterwards.

Having played for much of the second half with 14 men after losing Derek Molloy to a second yellow card, the Faithful were restored to a full complement for overtime. Dooley re-introduced captain Brian Carroll, having hauled him ashore early in the second half, citing an under-par performance.

It wasn't in the plan, but the skipper responded brilliantly to his substitution and made up for his poor showing by scoring two points from play and creating Rory Hanniffy's decisive goal with a superb flicked pass after Cathal Parlon had created a two-on-one. Hanniffy finished clinically.

Antrim wilted as Offaly scored 1-5 to 0-1 in the 20 minutes of extra-time with Dinny Cahill's side were out on their feet.

Roundly written off in the build-up, the Saffrons came to Dublin determined to prove their critics wrong and produced a sterling display.

They sprang out of the blocks with 1-2 in the opening seven minutes -- the goal coming when Neil McManus caught Shane McNaughton's dropping ball, swivelled and beat Bryan Mullins with a fine finish.

That woke Offaly from their slumbers. Joe Bergin impressed as his side scored 1-8 without reply, a flick from the full-forward allowing Dooley the space to sweep the ball past Gareth Magee.

Normal order seemed to have been restored, but Johnny Campbell ended an impoverished quarter of an hour for Antrim with a '65 and having regained a foothold in the game, they ended up leading at the break after an eventful end to the half.

Trailing by six points on 25 minutes, McNaughton and McManus were switched out the field and inspired their side to score 2-5 before the interval, with Offaly restricted to points from Bergin and Dooley.

The goals came in quick succession, Joey Scullion burst into the danger zone and off-loaded to Thomas McCann, whose shot struck the post, only for substitute Colm McFall to follow up and somehow beat Mullins with a shot that went in off the upright.

McNaughton added a point, before Karl McKeegan brilliantly improvised after being hooked by David Franks, kicking the ball home to give his side a massive boost at half-time.

Being beaten three times in 35 minutes meant Mullins didn't reappear after the break, replaced by James Dempsey, while Carroll lasted just 11 minutes as Dooley looked for inspiration.

Antrim, though, continued to forge on and scores from McManus, Neil McAuley and Karl Stewart saw the lead extended to 3-12 to 1-13, with Molloy seeing red for a high tackle on Stewart. But led by Dooley, who scored six points, Offaly outscored the Ulstermen by 0-9 to 0-2 in the last quarter.

Sub goalkeeper Dempsey made a brilliant save to deny Scullion a second -- and probably killer goal.

And when Hanniffy won the crucial free at the other end, Dooley held his nerve to earn the extra 20 minutes that allowed his team through.

SCORERS -- Offaly: S Dooley (0-5f, 0-1 '65) 1-12, R Hanniffy 1-1, B Carroll, J Bergin, K Brady 0-3 each, O Kealey 0-2, D Molloy, G Helion 0-1 each. Antrim: N McManus (0-2f) 1-4, S McNaughton (0-2f) 0-5, K McKeegan, C McFall 1-0 each, K Stewart, J Campbell (0-1f, 0-1 '65) 0-2 each, N McAuley, K McGourty, B McFall 0-1 each.

OFFALY -- B Mullins; D Franks, P Cleary, M Verney; J Rigney, D Kenny, D Morkan; R Hanniffy, K Brady; B Carroll, J Brady, D Currams; S Dooley, J Bergin, D Molloy. Subs: J Dempsey for Mullins (h-t), B Murphy for Currams (h/t), G Healion for Carroll (45), C Parlon for Brady (53), D Hayden for Brady (67), Carroll for Molloy (70), O Kealey for Parlon (83), S Egan for Verney (89), S Kelly for Murphy (91).

ANTRIM -- G Magee; K McGourty, C Donnelly, A Graffin; N McAuley, J Campbell, C Herron; P Shiels, K Stewart; E McCloskey, T McCann, J Scullion; S McNaughton, N McManus, K McKeegan. Subs: C McFall for McCloskey 23, L Watson for McCann (h-t), S McCrory for Shiels (69), B McFall for Stewart (65), McClosket for C McFall (70), Stewart for McCloskey (77).

REF -- A Stapleton (Laois).

Irish Independent

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