Offaly is sent to Division Two as Antrim comes out on top in the relegation playoffs

ANTRIM maintained Division One status in style as they defeated Offaly to send the Faithful back to Division 2A.

The Saffrons were in control for most of the game and were only seconds down early in the game as they fended off a revival from Offaly early in the second half to cope and secure the win.

Ciaran Clarke gave the winners an early lead after an initial attack on goal was repelled and while points from David King and John Murphy put Offaly briefly ahead, Antrim’s goal fell five minutes when Gerard Walsh followed up a long ball sent down Joe Maskey, who slammed James McNaughton off the shoulder to go through and find the net.

The ball somehow stayed out of the net minutes later when Clarke parried a Stephen Corcoran shot, with Keelan Molloy somehow failing to hit the rebound over the line but showing Conal Cunning as the ball was swept clear.

The wides stacked for Offaly but they were evened out after 12 minutes thanks to points from Jason Sampson and Corcoran but Antrim was more fluid as Cunning started knocking down the frees while Clarke and Gerard Walsh came out as Saffrons led 1- 9 to 0-8 with five left in the half.

Offaly made a superb recovery and four at the trot by Eoghan Cahill, David Nally, Luke O’Connor and Jason Sampson seemed to give them momentum.

However, Antrim would regain the initiative as consecutive points from Clarke and Molloy were then followed by Domhnall Nugent plucking a long delivery from Walsh from the sky, with Molloy assisting to take the pass and putting Antrim into a 2. 11 to 0-12 halftime lead.

That lead was wiped out within a crazy five-minute break after the break when Brian Duigan, after Luke O’Connor crossed a point, was denied a scoring opportunity by Niall O’Connor, despite seemingly having nowhere to go but O’Connor became sinful and Cahill blasted the penalty home with a Luke O’Connor free straight after leveling the sides.

Antrim reacted fantastically and took the full lead with 13 of the next 16 points, with Eoghan Campbell starting the run to mark a great personal effort, while Cunning, McNaughton, Clarke, Molloy and Conor McCann all pitched in.

They could have increased their goal tally, but Joe Maskey skimmed a shot and Corcoran made a stunning double save on Clarke and then Cunning, while the Antrim defense was totally on except for a brief moment when Ryan Elliott was forced to save against Luke leading was O’Connor with Cahill nailing the following 65.

Offaly’s day later got worse when Joey Keenaghan showed a second yellow four minutes from time and while Niall O’Connor was flashed yellow and then red in added time after a brief flare, Antrim was home and dry.

Cahill found the net for Offaly after a free injury-time draw, while Cian Clarke booked a penalty goal for taking the shot from over the 20-yard line when Eimhin Kelly was dealt the black card, but it was all immaterial when Antrim hit the drop, with Offally reverting to 2A.

Scorers for Antrim: Conal Cunning 0-11 (9 Frees), Keelan Molloy 1-2, James McNaughton 1-2 (0-1 Free, 0-1 65), Ciaran Clarke 0-4, Gerard Walsh 0-1, Eoghan Campbell 0-1, Joe Maskey 0-1, Conor McCann 0-1, Eoin O’Neill 0-1

Scorers for Offaly: Eogan Cahill 2-6 (1-3 free kick, 1-0 penalty, 0-1 65), Jason Sampson 0-3, Luke O’Connor 0-3 (1 free kick), David King 0-1, Paddy Clancy 0-1, John Murphy 0-1, David Nally, Stephen Corcoran 0-1 (Free)

ANTRIM: Ryan Elliott; David Kearney, Gerard Walsh, Stephen Rooney; Paddy Burke, Eoghan Campbell, Joe Maskey; Ryan McGarry, Keelan Molloy; James McNaughton, Domhnall Nugent, Conal Cunning; Conor Johnston, Conor McCann, Ciaran Clarke.

Substitutes: Niall O’Connor for David Kearney (HT), Seaan Elliott for James McNaughton (58), Eoin O’Neill for Conor Johnston (65), Daniel McKernan for Domhnall Nugent (70), Phelim Duffin for Ryan McGarry (70+ ). 2)

OFFALY: Stephen Corcoran; Jack Screeney, Ben Conneely, Joey Keenaghan; Leon Fox, David King, Killian Sampson; Adrian Cleary, David Nally; Brian Duignan, Jason Sampson, John Murphy; Liam Langton, Eoghan Cahill, Luke O’Connor.

Eimhin Kelly for Liam Langton (HT), Ciaran Burke for Adrian Cleary (HT), Eoghan Parlon for Leon Fox (58), Paddy Clancy for Brian Duignan (58), Sean Cleary for Luke O’Connor (64)

REFEREE: Rory McGann (Clare) Offaly is sent to Division Two as Antrim comes out on top in the relegation playoffs

Fry Electronics Team

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