Rejuvenated Offaly were 'due a bit of luck', says new boss Rouse
Offaly 2-20 Antrim 1-15
Offaly are back letting their football do the talking after an eight-point win over Antrim on Saturday night ensured their passage to round two of the football qualifiers.
Played at a sun-kissed O'Connor Park, Offaly - under the guidance of new manager Paul Rouse - put a messy few weeks behind them with an impressive display, putting up a score of 2-20 with 12 different scorers.
Speaking after the game, Rouse was beaming and insisted that all involved have to continue to look forward.
"There's no such thing as redemption in football or hurling, there's the next game you play. We prepared for this game, not for the last one we played," said Rouse.
"Those players deserve absolutely everything that they got this evening. You saw the reception that they got from the Offaly supporters coming off the field at half time because those people recognised effort.
"And you saw the reception they got at full time with all the Offaly people on the field. The support we got from the crowd was outstanding, and it was everything they deserved. It's been a long time coming for them, there's some really good footballers in that dressing room."
Offaly led 0-11 to 0-8 at half time but that was largely down to a scoring burst in the closing stages of the half. With Patrick McBride to the fore, Antrim had led 0-6 to 0-4 after 26 minutes but led by Nigel Dunne and John Moloney, Offaly went in three points up at the break.
"We got a run at it just before half time and the fact that there were five or six minutes of injury time at the end of the first half really suited us," explained Rouse.
"It was in those minutes that I think we got that little bit of a gap, which was so important for morale coming out in the second half. I have to say, from Antrim's point of view, they were absolutely stricken with injuries.
"It's true that we had a man sent off, but they had lads not available coming into the game, they lost Conor Murray who's an outstanding footballer, and Kevin O'Boyle who's an excellent footballer as well.
"Antrim were very seriously weakened for that second half and things fell our way in that second half. But, by Jesus, we were due a bit of luck."
Nigel Dunne was sent off on 44 minutes for an off-the-ball incident but, six minutes later, Offaly had the game more or less put to bed when Bernard Allen found the net to put Offaly up 1-15 to 0-11 up with 20 minutes to go.
Both sides added goals in injury time, with Jamie Evans on the mark for Offaly while James Smith nailed the Antrim consolation effort.
man of the match
Brian Darby (Offaly)
There were a number of candidates - with Michael Brazil, John Moloney and Bernard Allen to the fore - but Brian Darby gets the nod. After returning to the panel from retirement a few weeks back, he put in a near-flawless display, kicked a point and re-adjusted to the inter-county game with ease.
wides: Offaly 15 (7); Antrim 6 (2)
frees: Offaly 14 (5); Antrim 7 (5)
Scorers - Offaly: B Allen 1-3 (0-1 free), J Moloney 0-4 (1f), N Dunne 0-3, J Evans 1-0, S Tierney and A Mulhall (frees) 0-2 each, B Darby, N Darby, M Brazil, C Donohoe, S Nally, C McNamee 0-1 each. Antrim: P McBride 0-7 (0-3f), J Smith 1-0, S Beatty, C Duffin 0-2 each, P McAleer, R Murray, M McCarry and K Healy 0-1 each.
OFFALY - A Mulhall 7; B Darby 9, J Lalor 7, S Pender 7; D Hogan 7, P McConway 7, N Darby 6; J Moloney 8, M Brazil 8; C Donohoe 7, S Nally 6, C McNamee 6; B Allen 8, A Sullivan 6, N Dunne 7. Subs: R McNamee 6 for S Nally (44), J Evans 7 for C Donohoe (58), S Tierney 7 for B Allen (64), D Dempsey for D Hogan (66), E Carroll for J Moloney (70).
ANTRIM: A Hasson 6; K O'Boyle 6, P Gallagher 6, N Delargy 6; P Healy 6, M Sweeney 7, J Laverty 7; P McAleer 6, C Murray 6; R McBride 8, M Fitzpartick 6, R McCann 6; K Healy 6, R Murray 6, C Duffin 7. Subs: S Beatty 7 for C Murray (22), N McKeever 6 for K O'Boyle (28), M McCarry 6 for N McKeever (53), J Smith 6 for R McCann (53), O Eastwood 6 for K Healy (58), P Branagan 6 for J Laverty (60).
Ref: M McNally (Monaghan)