The home side dominated territory and possession throughout the tie but failed to make dominance count on the scoreboard and looked to be in trouble when three Antrim points in succession reduced the gap to the minimum by the 50-minute mark.
“It was the same thing against Waterford, it was only in the last 20 minutes that we took over,” said Flanagan, reflecting on his team’s late surge. “We were eight points up against Leitrim and took our foot off the pedal. Last week against Longford the same, and before that against Carlow we were three points down before we started playing.”
A heavy dependence on Bernard Allen for scores hindered Offaly’s efforts, but both Willie Mulhall and Graham Guilfoyle came to the fore in the closing stages, kicking two points from play each to ensure that the final score accurately reflected the action. Antrim were reduced to chasing shadows by the end, doubly so when their captain Conor McGourty was shown a second yellow card with injury time looming.
McGourty and Nigel Dunne traded goals in the sixth minute but that failed to spark the tie into life, as a string of missed chances cost both sides and betrayed the nervousness of the two teams. Offaly led by 1-5 to 1-2 at half-time with Allen and Nigel Dunne their only scorers, while they were also handed a massive reprieve when Alan Mulhall wasn’t cited for a foot block on Matt Fitzpatrick in first-half injury time.
B Allen (0-6, 0-3f); N Dunne (1-1, 0-1 ’45); W Mulhall (0-3, 0-1f); G Guilfoyle 0-3.
CJ McGourty (1-4, 0-4f); M Pollock (0-2, 0-1f); J Crozier (0-1).
A Mulhall; B Darby, J Ledwith, D Brady; N Darby, J Moloney, J O’Connor; G Guilfoyle, N Smith; E Carroll, N McNamee, A Sullivan; B Allen, N Dunne, W Mulhall.
E Rigney for Ledwith (27), P Cunningham for W Mulhall (66), J Evans for Dunne (67), N Bracken for Allen (67)
C Kerr; J Laverty, C Burke, D Lynch; C McGuinness, R Johnston, T Scullion; B Hasson, O Gallagher; C Murray, CJ McGourty, M Fitzpatrick; J Crozier, M Pollock, R Murray.
P McBride for Lynch (28), D McAleese for R Murray (HT), N McKeever for Fitzpatrick (43), R McGrady for Gallagher (58), J Carron for Hasson (66), M Kane for McBride (70 – bc)
L Devenney (Mayo)