Antrim and Offaly end deadlocked after great contest

Tesco All-Ireland Minor B final

Antrim   2-7 Offaly 0-13

HAD someone offered Antrim a draw and a replay with ten minutes to go in this thrilling Tesco All-Ireland Minor B final in Inniskeen, the Antrim players, management and supporters would have bitten their arm off to get it.

They were four points down at that stage and had Clodagh Leahy not missed two relatively easy frees in the 46th and 49th minutes, Offaly would have been home and hosed. Apart from the score-board Antrim’s forwards were starved of possession and ball was being played in on top of Offaly sweeper and centre-half back Orla Phelan who must have come close to Player of the Match.

Antrim’s Orlagh Laverty in action against Offaly’s D Connor.

That the team turned the game on its head and led by a point with a minute to go meant that there was more than a little exasperation when Sinéad Hanamy, daughter of 1994 Liam McCarthy winning captain Martin, swivelled and popped over an equaliser.

But Offaly certainly deserved to get something from the game and for most of the second half they looked like coming away with everything.

Apart from Phelan, they were dominant in many positions and sub Hannah Reilly made an instant impact while Faye Mulrooney at full-forward was a constant thorn in Antrim’s side.

The Faithful held Antrim to a single point for a full 30 minutes of play from the 23rd minute until Cassie McArthur kick-started the Saffron comeback with a superb point. During that period Antrim looked disjointed and there was very little co-ordinated team play in a frantic match fought out mainly between the two 45 metre lines.

Antrim also gave away needless fouls at both ends of the field and Clodagh Leahy was taking full advantage until she hit a blip at the start of the last quarter. The game was intense and many of the players shone for short periods before disappearing for longer periods.

Áine Magill was one of those players, but the Dunloy ace still showed the touch of individual brilliance at the death to pull her team out of the hole they had helped dig themselves into.

Her cousin Cassie McArthur was starved of a decent supply of the ball for most of the second half, yet she grabbed two vital points when they were most needed to tee up that dramatic ending. Bríd Magill was another who finished the game strongly and was involved in the lead up to her older sister’s goal.

It was Áine Magill who opened Antrim’s account with a point and, when one of her 45s didn’t go the distance after eight minutes, the sliotar was batted straight down to Evanne Martin who fired low and hard to the net.

That goal put Antrim 1-1 to 0-2 ahead but Offaly had levelled the tie by the water break with two frees from Clodagh Leahy.

Points on the re-start from Orlagh Laverty, Cassie McArthur and Nuala Devlin again opened a gap on the score-board for the Saffrons, but they didn’t build on it and the lead had been cut to 1-4 to 0-6 by the change of ends with both goalkeepers pulling off excellent point blank stops.

Antrim full forward Cassie McArthur wins the ball close to goal

Áine Magill opened the second half with a point, but Offaly then began to dictate the play. They drew level with a free from Leahy and a point from sub Hannah Reilly with her first touch.

Antrim conceded a number of frees during the middle of the half and Leahy moved her team 0-12 to 1-5 ahead, despite those two misses from dead balls.

Antrim looked to be wilting, but McArthur’s two points breathed life into their challenge as Offaly withdrew to defend their advantage. Bríd Magill then got acres of space as sweeper and from one of her deliveries, Orlagh Laverty found an opening for Áine Magill who still had plenty of work ahead of her before blasting to the Offaly net.

The older Magill’s involvement in the All-Ireland Intermediate final on Sunday means that on Saturday September 18th would seem to be the earliest date for the replay. But for the present, Antrim should be relieved enough to get a second chance.

Antrim’s Nuala Devlin runs at the Offaly defence

Antrim : Orla Donnelly, Ailbhe Kane, Bríd Magill, Orla McIlroy, Lára Haughey, Fay McIntosh, Elen McIntosh, Orlagh Laverty 0-1, Áine Magill 1-2, 0-1 free, Brónach Magill, Evanne Martin 1-0, Fionnuala Kelly, Síne Woodhouse, Cassie McArthur 0-3, 0-1 free, Nuala Devlin 0-1.

Subs: Niamh Neeson for E McIntosh (52), Monique O’Boyle for E Martin (53), Emily O’Neill, Katie Rose Bell, Sarah Fyfe, Eva Graham, Cara Connolly, Emer Vallely, Emily McGurk, Caoimhe McMullan, Niamh Graham.

Offaly: L Gallagher, H Feenane, D Connor, S Doherty, C Hoare, O Phelan, S Fitzgerald, G Leonard 0-1, C Darcy, L Glynn, C Leahy 0-7 frees, C Fletcher, C Fogarty 0-3, F Mulrooney, S Hanamy 0-1

Subs: H Reilly 0-1 for G Leonard (34), A O’Reagan for L Glynn (58),

Referee : Mike Ryan (Tipperary)

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