Antrim give their all, but Offaly never in any danger

Antrim 0-19 Offaly 2-17
Just four points separated Offaly and Antrim at Ballycastle yesterday but, in truth, the visitors were never really in danger against a Saffron side that at least restored some pride after last week’s mauling by Waterford.

The Faithful got off to a dream start when Shane Dooley rippled the Antrim net after just 17 seconds. The visitors went on to add a further 0-3 without reply for a 1-3 to 0-0 lead after 12 minutes.

Antrim opened their account through a Paul Shiels free but within seconds Dooley struck for his second goal when put through by Joe Bergin.

Playing with the wind, Antrim slowly began to grind their way into the game and on the half hour mark had cut the gap to three points, 2-6 to 0-9, with Conor Johnston accounting for three of the Antrim scores and Michael Bradley adding two from distance.

Bergin added his second before forcing a superb save from Chris O’Connell on the stroke of half-time. Dooley’s resultant 65 drifted wide for a 2-7 to 0-9 half-time lead for Offaly.

Offaly added four unanswered points in the third quarter, three from the stick of Dooley who finished with 2-6. The impressive Bradley stopped the rot for Antrim, raising the first flag for the home side in 20 minutes.

When Antrim sub Ciaran Clarke pointed on 65 minutes, just four separated the sides, 2-14 to 0-16. Throughout the game Offaly were coming by their scores slightly easier and, as previously when the gap narrowed, Whelahan’s side quickly restored a wider margin, this time through subs Carroll and Cillian Kiely. Antrim pushed hard for a goal but found no way through the Offaly rear-guard. McManus had a chance from a 25-metre free but his well-struck effort was always rising over the bar. The home side did however tack on the final two points of the day, the final one coming from Bradley who finished with 0-5, all from play.

Antrim now face a relegation playoff against Laois at O’Moore Park on Saturday.

ANTRIM: C O’Connell; O McFadden, T McCann (0-1), T O Ciarain; E McAlonan, R McCambridge, P Shiels (0-2, 1f); A Graffin, S McCrory (0-1); D Hamill (0-1), C Carson (0-1), M Bradley (0-5); Conor Johnson (0-4, 2f), C McCann, S McNaughton.

Subs: N McManus (0-2, 1f) for T Ó Ciarain (ht), PJ O’Connell for C McCann (ht), M Donnelly for A Graffin (37), E Campbell (0-1) for S McNaughton (48), C Clarke (0-1) for D Hamill (51).

OFFALY: J Dempsey; S Wynne, D Shortt, D King; C Parlon, C Egan, E Murphy; S Ryan, P Camon; E Nolan, J Mulrooney, J Bergin (0-4), S Quirke (0-1), D Currams (0-3), S Dooley (2-6, 5f).

Subs: C McDonald for S Wynne (39), S Cleary for J Mulrooney (50), B Carroll (0-2, 1f) for S Dooley (51), C Kiely (0-1) for E Nolan (56), C Mulrooney for P Camon (63)


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