Conor Johnston struck for a late goal to win a thrilling Joe McDonagh Cup opener for Antrim against Offaly at Corrigan Park.

Just as it appeared the 14-man Faithful had completed the great escape when Eoghan Cahill knocked over his 13th point of the day from a free after Paddy Clancy's goal had levelled, the Saffrons found the winner with Johnston crashing home.

Cahill still had a chance to snatch it back for Offaly, but his free from around 30 metres flew over for a point rather than the major his side needed.

Playing with the aid of a strong breeze, Antrim were quicker out of the traps with Conal Cunning landing a pair of frees and Paddy Burke one from play.

The sides would trade a pair of scores with Offaly's Eoghan Cahill landing a beauty of a sideline before the Faithful began to get on top and were level with Brian Duignan, Jason Sampson and David Nally all on target.

After another exchange of scores, another three-in-a-row from Offaly appeared to give them a good place heading towards the break but it could have been better had Ryan Elliott not saved brilliantly from Sampson.

However, when the goal came it arrived at the other end with Ciaran Clarke finding Connor McCann on the left of goal to crack home and while Adrian Cleary hit back with a score at the other end, Keelan Molloy drilled one over for the hosts to leave the sides level at the break, 1-8 to 0-11.

The Saffrons made a much better start to the second period with seven of the first 10 points to move five clear on 53 minutes as Offaly were reduced to 14 after Jack Screeney had picked up two yellows after the break.

A pair of David Nally points brought the visitors to within striking distance, but after Ciaran Clarke pointed, Johnston was in for the first of his goals when wipping to the net.

Offaly hit straight back as a blocked shot spun and Ryan Elliott couldn't gather with Nally profiting to finish to the net.

Antrim still managed to seemingly keep the visitors at arm's length with the gap five with two minutes of normal time remaining, but Offaly would not go away and after Luke O'Connor and Cahill pointed, Joey Keenaghan's initial drop-shot for goal in stoppage time flew at Clancy who bundled home.

Cahill's free nudged Offaly ahead, but Antrim found the response they needed with Joe Maskey nudging Gerard Walsh's long delivery down to Eoghan Campbell and he popped inside to Johnston to race in and bury the chance.

Offaly did have that late chance, but it was a big ask for Cahill to find the net with everyone camped in front of the goal as the Saffrons got their McDonagh campaign off to a winning start.

Antrim: R Elliott; R McGarry (0-1), G Walsh, S Rooney; P Burke (0-2), E Campbell, S Walsh; J Maskey, K Molloy (0-1); S Elliott (0-1), D Nugent, C McCann (1-1); C Cunning (0-10, 7 frees, 1 65), C Clarke (0-3), C Johnston (2-2).

Subs: J McNaughton (0-1) for K Molloy (HT), P Duffin for S Rooney (57), M Donnelly for S Walsh (62), D McKernan for S Elliott (64), C Bohill for D Nugent (69)

Offaly: S Corcoran; J Keenaghan, D King, P Cantwell; E Parlon, B Conneely, E Kelly (0-1); J Screeney, L Fox (0-1); A Cleary (0-2), E Cahill (0-14, 11 frees, 1 sideline, 1 65), B Duignan (0-1); S Cleary, J Sampson (0-1), D Nally (1-3).

Subs: L O'Connor (0-1) for S Cleary (48), J Murphy for L Fox (52), K Sampson for B Duignan (54), C Burke for E Parlon (63), P Clancy (1-0) for A Cleary (68)

Referee: Chris Mooney (Dublin)