McManus sets up Saffrons victory over much-changed Offaly
Antrim 2-21 Offaly 2-18
While they were already condemned to a relegation final, Antrim took no prisoners in Birr yesterday and turned over an Offaly side who already had their league quarter-final spot assured.
Kevin Martin rested some key players and had a look at some fringe players, but Antrim's win will still be a massive boost as they host Laois next weekend in the relegation play-off.
"Today was all about having a good attitude. We knew Offaly were making a lot of changes, we made a lot of changes, but we were quite impressed with the way our players adapted with their mindset and the way they play the game," said Antrim boss Neal Peden.
"The energy levels were good, even in the second-half. We had been dropping off in games because we weren't used to playing at this level and it was taking a lot out of the players. But they kept going and going, we used the five subs and everybody played a major part today.
"Overall we are very pleased and this will lift the energy levels again ahead of the Laois game, which is going to be very tough."
Antrim led by a point at half-time, 1-10 to 1-9, with Daniel McCloskey finding the net after 11 minutes before Peter Geraghty responded with Offaly's opening goal two minutes later.
It was a tight affair, but Antrim were managing to keep their noses in front. They held a cushion of a couple of points up until 18 minutes to go, when Shane Dooley first-timed a high ball to the net to level the game.
It was the Antrim men who finished stronger and a goal from Nigel Elliot and a free from Neil McManus, both in injury-time, sealing the win.
Offaly now have a quarter-final date with Kilkenny next weekend and Offaly boss Martin is pleased to get another game at that level.
"We want to win every game, but we have to give players game time and we have to see what we have," he said. "We are after getting a look at a few players and we are preparing for a quarter-final next weekend. We would have liked to have won, but there is a bigger picture."
Scorers - Antrim: Neil McManus 0-7 (4f), Daniel McCloskey & Nigel Elliot 1-0 each, Eoghan Campbell, Joe Maskey, Conor McCann, Conor Johnston & James McNaughton 0-2 each, Donal McKinley, Michael Armstrong, Conor McKinley & Ryan McCambridge 0-1 each. Offaly: Shane Dooley 1-6 (6f), Joe Bergin 0-5 (2f, 1 '65), Peter Geraghty 1-1, Cillian Kiely 0-2 (1f), James Gorman, Liam Langton, David King & Dermot Shortt 0-1 each.
Antrim - R Elliot 7; A Graffin 6, J Dillon 6, R McCambridge 7; J Maskey 8, P Burke 6, C McKinley 7; E Campbell 9, G Walsh 7; D McKinley 7, N McManus 8, M Armstrong 6; C McCann 7, C Johnson 7, D McCloskey 7. Subs: S Rooney 6 for A Graffin (HT), N Elliot 7 for M Armstrong (40m), D Kearney 6 for G Walsh (58m), J McNaughton 7 for D McKinley (62m), C Carson 6 for D McCloskey (66m).
Offaly - C Slevin 6; T Spain 7, D Shortt 6, P Rigney 6; D King 7, D Doughan 6, J Quinn 6; S Kinsella 6, D Egan 6; C Cleary 5, C Kiely 6, P Geraghty 7; L Langton 6, J Bergin 7, J Gorman 6. Subs: S Ryan 6 for S Kinsella (HT), R Hughes 5 for C Cleary (HT), S Dooley 8 for J Bergin (HT), C Mahon 6 for C Kiely (56m), T Geraghty 6 for P Geraghty (62m).
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary)