The Leinster side travelled to the Glens as firm favourites to take the honours in yesterday’s Division 1B relegation play-off, but despite an eight-point lead in the first-half, Antrim clawed their way back into the game and deservedly secured Division 1 hurling next year.
The visitors got off to a flying start, Stephen Quirke firing to the net after five minutes. Kevin Brady intercepted an Antrim pass and fired low across the square for Quirke to deflect the sliotar to the Antrim net.
The lively PJ O’Connell replied for the home side but it was the Faithful men who were in control and by the quarter-hour mark all six forwards had scored when Brian Carroll stroked over for a 1-7 to 0-4 lead.
Two Bergin frees extended the lead to eight, before Paul Shiels sparked the Antrim revival, firing over his side’s first score for 16 minutes. The same player then added a superb effort from range before Conor Carson’s goal had Antrim back in the frame, trailing by three, 1-11 to 1-8. Within six minutes of the restart, the sides were level, with Shiels, McManus and Carson all on target. A score for score exchange had the sides level a further twice by the 55 minute mark, but Antrim accounted for five of the final six points to seal the win.
Offaly now face a must-win battle against the winner of the Division 2A final between Carlow and Kerry who meet at Thurles on Sunday.
ANTRIM: C O’Connell; Ciaran Johnson, C McKinley, O McFadden; E Campbell (0-2), N McAuley, P Shiels (0-9, 4f, 0-1 ‘65’); D Hamill, C McCann; C Carson (1-1), M Donnelly, S McAfee; N McManus (0-3, 1f), PJ O’Connell (0-3), Conor Johnson.
Subs: B McFall for S McAfee, N McKenna for C McCann, C Clarke for M Donnelly, D McKernan for C Johnson, J McGreevy for C Clarke.
OFFALY: J Dempsey; N Wynne, G Healion, J Rigney; C Parlon, C Egan, C McDonald; K Brady, T Geraghty; J Bergin (0-5, 4f), C Mahon (0-1), S Dooley (0-1); B Carroll (0-3), D Currams (0-2), S Quirke (1-2).
Subs: S Cleary for K Brady, K Connolly for B Carroll.
Referee: J Owens (Wexford).