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Antrim 1-20 Offaly 2-19

Updated: Sunday, 29 Jun 2014 21:36 | Comments

Antrim's Conor McKinley attempts to hook Offaly's Conor Mahon
Antrim's Conor McKinley attempts to hook Offaly's Conor Mahon

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A 71st minute goal from Brian Carroll saw Offaly rob victory at the death with a 2-19 to 1-20 victory over Antrim in the All-Ireland SHC qualifiers at Ballycastle.

Antrim led by five points with nine minutes remaining following a PJ O’Connell point, but Kevin Ryan’s side weren’t to score again as Offaly dug deep to claim victory.

In an entertaining encounter the sides were level on five occasions in the opening half, including after 23 minutes but Antrim stole a march before half-time when points from O’Connell, Michael Bradley, Neal McAuley and Paul Shiels helped them to a 0-13 to 0-10 interval lead.

Antrim moved four points clear on the restart, but a 41st minute David Kenny goal put Offaly on the front foot.

The hosts responded with four points in-a-row, and with Chrissy O’Connell inspired between the posts with eight clear cut goal chances saved over the 70 minutes, the Saffrons moved 0-19 to 1-13 in front.

A PJ O’Connell goal in the 58th minute handed Antrim a 1-19 to 1-14 lead, but Offaly never gave up as the visitors finished strongly with a Sean Cleary point sealing victory at the death.

With the sides already having met on three occasions this year, the scene was set for a keenly contested encounter.

Antrim and Offaly had suffered heavy Leinster defeats against Wexford and Kilkenny respectively, and both were eager to get their summer back on track.

The sun shone brightly throughout at the picturesque North Antrim venue, and the Saffrons were the quickest out of the blocks.

Shiels fired the first of his six first half points after just 80 seconds and this was quickly followed with a Jackson McGreevy point from play to see the hosts off to a positive start.

Antrim's Neil McAuley and Brian Carroll of Offaly

Offaly showed great determination throughout this contest and this was evident in the opening stages, with two Bergin scores levelling the tie after eight minutes.

This was the first of eight occasions the teams would be tied in this game, including seven times in the opening half, with both teams hitting patches of dominance.

Scores from Conor Mahon, Bergin and Dooley saw Offaly move 0-05 to 0-04 ahead after 15 minutes, but Shiels fired an equaliser.

Again Offaly took the lead, with Carroll slotting over his first score, but a fourth Shiels point ensured parity once again after 19 minutes.

Antrim were dealt a major blow after St. John’s clubman Simon McCrory was forced to make an early exit with a shoulder injury.

The hosts continued apace with Ciaran Clarke pushing them back ahead, but Antrim certainly didn’t have it all their own way.

By the 22nd minute, Antrim keeper O’Connell had made three superb goal saves, including ones from Conor Mahon and Shane Dooley.

Bergin led by example as the Offaly captain forced the sides level for the fifth occasion, but Antrim suddenly took over.

Four unanswered points, finishing with a Tomas McCann score as he became Antrim’s seventh scorer, saw the Saffrons move 0-11 to 0-07 ahead in the 29th minute.

Colin Egan tried hard to keep Offaly in touch, and got two well worked points, but Antrim held out to take a 0-13 to 0-10 interval lead.

It looked good for Antrim at the start of the second half as a Clarke point handed them a four-point lead, but Offaly never went away.

David Kenny’s goal raised the hopes of the small Offaly travelling support, including All-Ireland winner Joe Dooley, after the Belmont clubman cut around Antrim full-back Conor McKinley.

Momentum was with the visitors at this stage, with points from substitute Derek Morkan and Bergin ensuring a 1-12 to 0-14 lead seven and a half minutes into the half.

Antrim levelled through Neil McManus though and while Shane Dooley put Offaly back in front, the hosts responded well.

Shiels, Conor McCann and Stephen McAfee all fired scores to hand Antrim a 0-19 to 1-13 lead with 17 minutes left on the clock.

O’Connell was continuing to perform heroics between the posts, with an outstretched leg denying Mahon of a certain goal.

At the opposite end Antrim bagged their lone goal through PJ O’Connell, but Offaly never gave up.

A fourth point from Carroll cut the gap to two points in the 66th minute, with Offaly coming good also in injury-time.

In the 71st minute Carroll’s long range free powered through a crowded goalmouth and into the net to hand Offaly a one-point lead, before substitute Sean Cleary sealed a well-earned win with a point at the death.

Offaly: J Dempsey; N Wynne, R Hanniffy, C McDonald; K Brady, G Healion, C Parlon (0-01); C Mahon (0-01), S Ryan; S Dooley (0-03), D Kenny (1-00), C Egan (0-02); B Carroll (1-04, 1-2f, 2 65), D Currams (0-01), J Bergin (0-05, 2f).

Subs: D Morkan (0-01) for Ryan (30); E Nolan for Wynne (46); S Cleary (0-01) for Dooley (55); K Connolly for Healion (64).

Antrim: C O’Connell; O McFadden, C McKinley, A Graffin; S McCrory, N McAuley (0-01), N McManus (0-01, 1f); T McCann (0-01), J McGreevy (0-01); C Carson, P Shiels (0-08, 4f, 1 65), C McCann (0-01); D Hamill, C Clarke (0-03), PJ O’Connell (1-02).

Subs: M Bradley (0-01) for McCrory (21); S McAfee (0-01) for Hamill (47); D McKernan for McGreevy (53); N McKenna for McAuley (60); C McGuinness for PJ O’Connell (64).

Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath)

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