Saffrons stun lowly Offaly to keep Croke Park dream alive
Antrim 3-23 Offaly 4-18
The crisis in Offaly hurling deepened yesterday as Antrim came to O'Connor Park and recorded a deserved two-point win, despite the home side hurling with an extra man for 44 minutes.
Antrim travelled to the midlands knowing that victory would keep their hopes alive of a final appearance at Croke Park. That seemed unlikely when Martin Burke saw red after nine minutes for making contact with an Offaly helmet.
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However, after an initial burst in which they scored four points on the bounce, Offaly failed to pull away.
Keelan Molloy and Oisín Kelly traded goals inside 60 seconds and while the hosts went four clear, a second goal for Molloy, set up by man-of-the-match Neil McManus, dragged Antrim back into contention.
The Saffrons went 2-11 to 1-11 clear at the start of the second period when Eoghan Campbell shot over. Offaly goals from Joe Bergin and Oisín Kelly came either side of Conor Mahon's sending off on 53 minutes but were enough to edge the hosts ahead.
However, Antrim hit a decisive burst of scores with McManus in inspiring form. Six points in a row were scored by the visitors before Paddy Burke raced through the home defence and set up Nigel Elliot to power to the net.
Offaly looked to salvage the tie with Seán Cleary netting their fourth goal. Bergin added two frees and a '65, and the hosts 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.
Scorers - Antrim: N McManus 0-10 (0-7f), 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 1-5 (0-3f, 0-2 '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 (h-t), S Cleary for Dooley (Half time), K Dunne for Murphy (41), D O'Toole Greene for Camon (49)
Referee: L Gordon (Galway)
Sunday Indo Sport