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Two stoppage-time Antrim goals condemn Offaly to another year in Division 2A

A dramatic finish in Tullamore this afternoon.

Offaly 0-20
Antrim 2-14

Kevin Egan reports from Bord na Móna O’Connor Park

THERE WERE INCREDIBLE scenes deep into stoppage time in Tullamore this afternoon as two Antrim goals salvaged an unlikely draw for the Ulstermen, simultaneously condemning Offaly to at least one more year in Division 2A of the Allianz Hurling League.

A strong defensive performance after half-time seemed to be enough to give Offaly the win they needed to secure their place in the final alongside Antrim in a weeks’ time.

neil-mcmanus Neil McManus hit 1-13 for Antrim (file pic). Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Even as Neil McManus crashed in an incredible goal in the 77th minute, most supporters in the ground still felt that referee David Hughes would just blow his final whistle to confirm the result.

Instead he allowed play to continue, Conal Cunning won the breaking ball at midfield and a foul allowed Ciarán Johnson the chance to drop one more long ball into the Offaly square.

Once the sliotar was allowed to hit the ground from the free, Conor McCann was on hand to flash his hurley and rattle the Offaly net for the second time, drawing his team level for the first time.

The decision to extend play for two minutes longer than the six minutes of stoppage time that had been announced drew the ire of the home crowd, but Offaly should have been out of sight at that stage.

They had taken control of the game in the first two thirds of the field, restricting Antrim to just five points while hurling into a very strong wind. Some poor finishing up front meant that they failed to push on, however, with bad wides and shots dropped short keeping Antrim within touching distance.

Offaly manager Michael Fennelly will also reflect on a very disappointing spell midway through the first half, when his side failed to build on a sensational start.

Eoghan Cahill, Brendan Murphy and Peter Geraghty all got some stunning points to build up an 0-8 to 0-1 lead with just 10 minutes gone, but repeated fouling of the ball allowed Antrim to work their way back into the game.

Throw balls, over-carrying, dropped hurleys and catching the ball three times all featured as Neil McManus casually built up his scoring tally.

Antrim scored just two points from play in the half, one each from McManus and Conor Johnson, but were still very much in touch at the break, 0-13 to 0-9 behind with a strong wind to come. They never really kicked on from there, even though Conal Cunning and David Kearney added some impetus off the bench.

Ben Conneely, David O’Toole Greene and Dan Doughan were all superb under the Antrim puckout, which time and again went down the middle, only to be gobbled up and returned.

David Nally, Peter Geraghty and Seán Cleary picked off points from play and it seemed as if a rematch in the league decider was inevitable. Instead, the real drama was just about to unfold.

Scorers for Offaly: Eoghan Cahill 0-11 (0-7f, 0-1 sideline), Peter Geraghty (0-1 sideline) & David Nally 0-3 each, Brendan Murphy, Seán Cleary & Brian Watkins 0-1 each.

Scorers for Antrim: Neil McManus 1-13 (0-10f, 0-1 ’65), Conor McCann 1-0, Conor Johnson 0-1.

Offaly

1. James Dempsey (Kinnitty)

22. Michael Cleary (Shinrone)
3. David O’Toole Greene (Shamrocks)
24. Ciarán Burke (Ballinamere)

5. Brian Watkins (Birr)
6. Dan Doughan (Shinrone)
7. Brendan Murphy (Birr)

8. Leon Fox (Belmont)
9. David King (Coolderry)

11. Jason Sampson (Shinrone)
18. Peter Geraghty (Kilcormac-Killoughey)
10. Colm Gath (Drumcullen)

23. Seán Cleary (Shinrone)
13. David Nally (Belmont)
15. Eoghan Cahill (Birr)

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Subs:

2. Ben Conneely (St. Rynagh’s) for M Cleary (22)
19. Ross Ravenhill (Ballinamere) for Gath (HT)
14. Sean Dolan (St. Rynagh’s) for Sampson (57)
20. Liam Langton (Clodiagh Gaels) for Cahill (64)
12. Oisín Kelly (Belmont) for S Cleary (70)

Antrim

1. Ryan Elliot (Dunloy Cuchullains)

3. Matthew Donnelly (Ballycastle McQuillans)
2. Phelim Duffin (Dunloy Cuchullains)
4. Stephen Rooney (St. Paul’s)

5. Gerard Walsh (O’Donovan Rossa)
6. Ciarán Johnson (St. John’s)
7. Aodhán O’Brien (O’Donovan Rossa)

8. Keelan Molloy (Dunloy Cuchullains)
10. James McNaughton (Loughgiel Shamrocks)

12. Niall McKenna (Sarsfields)
11. Neil McManus (Rúairí Óg Cushendall)
21. Ronan Molloy (Dunloy Cuchullains)

15. Conor Johnson (St. John’s)
14. Conor McCann (Creggan Kickhams)
13. Donal Nugent (St. John’s)

Subs:

22. Conal Cunning (Dunloy Cuchulainns) for O’Brien (40)
20. David Kearney (Rúairí Óg Cushendall) for R Molloy (55)
17. Conor Boyd (Ballycastle McQuillans) for Walsh (57)
24. Eoin O’Neill (Dunloy Cuchulainns) for McNaughton (66)
23. Alex Delargy (Rúairí Óg Cushendall) for Conor Johnson (66)

Referee: David Hughes (Carlow).

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About the author:

Kevin Egan

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