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Peden pleased to see Saffrons 'kick on' and set up semi-final

Joe McDonagh Cup: Antrim 3-23 Offaly 4-18


Neal Peden. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Neal Peden. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile


Neal Peden. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

While most of the narrative will be about the latest step backwards for Offaly hurling, the magnitude of the win for Antrim shouldn't be lost, as a two-point victory in Tullamore on Saturday puts the Ulster men in pole position for a spot in the final.

They take on Westmeath in Dunloy next weekend in what is effectively a semi-final, as Croke Park stands just 70 minutes away for Neal Peden's men.

"That's what we wanted, we wanted to set it up for Dunloy next week. It's our big semi-final, that's been our goal and that's a great chance next week," he said.

"In the end we were drained and we were hanging in, but we got away from them again. It showed you that we had the quality, we took the scores at the proper times.

"It's about those wee small things and taking those extra points. We had a chance for a goal to wrap it up at the end, but it's like everything, you don't travel down to Offaly and get a good win like that easily.

"On the back of the Laois game where we didn't kick on the way we wanted, we just kicked on today. It sets it up for us next week."

Antrim lost Martin Burke to a red card after just eight minutes, but Offaly failed to capitalise and two first-half goals from Keelan Molloy had the Saffrons two points up at the break.

In an absorbing contest Offaly played their part, but can have no complaints as the hungrier and fitter team won.

The sides were evened up with 17 minutes left when Offaly's Conor Mahon received his marching orders and a livelier Antrim powered on.

Antrim hit 1-6 in succession after Oisín Kelly grabbed his second goal for Offaly on 55 minutes and that period, in which Nigel Elliot grabbed the goal, proved decisive. Offaly came with a late burst, including a goal from substitute Sean Cleary, but it was too little too late as Antrim hung on for a deserved win.

"If we don't win against Kerry we're gone to the Christy Ring and we're hoping that Laois can win that game next weekend," said a despondent Offaly boss Joachim Kelly.

"There's no team in the final yet, there's no team relegated, so it's all to play for. It's going to be a dogfight for everyone."

Scorers - Antrim: N McManus 0-10 (7f), K Molloy 2-0, N Elliot 1-1, J McNaughton 0-4, C Clarke, E Campbell 0-3 each, N McKeague, J Maskey 0-1 each

Offaly: O Kelly 2-2, J Bergin 1-6 (4f, 2 '65s), A Treacy 0-3, S Cleary 1-0, P Geraghty 0-2, E Cahill (f), K Connolly, C Kiely, P Murphy, D Nally 0-1 each.

Antrim - R Elliott; P Duffin, M Burke, S Rooney; J Maskey, P Burke, M Donnelly; N McKeague, D Kearney; N McManus, R McCambridge, K Molloy; E O'Neill, N Elliot, C Clarke. Subs: E Campbell for McKeague (31, blood), J McNaughton for O'Neill (35), E Campbell for McCambridge (35), J Dillon for Kearney (58), D McCloskey for Clarke (70+3).

Offaly - E Cahill; B Conneely, D Shortt, P Camon; C Kiely, S Kinsella, M Egan; A Treacy, P Murphy; C Egan, J Bergin, P Geraghty; K Connolly, O Kelly, S Dooley. Subs: C Mahon for C Egan (15), D Nally for Shortt (ht), S Cleary for Dooley (ht), K Dunne for Murphy (41), D O'Toole Greene for Camon (49).

Ref - L Gordon (Galway)

Irish Independent