Antrim’s late rally not enough to deny Offaly

Allianz National Football League Division 3

Antrim 0-12-2-12 Offaly

Kevin Herron reports from Corrigan Park

A below-par opening half display cost Antrim dearly as they fell to a 2-12-0-12 defeat to Offaly in their National League Division 3 opener at Corrigan Park this afternoon.

Ruairi McNamee capitalised on a spill and netted Offaly’s first half goal, that helped them to a 1-08-0-04 lead at the short whistle.

Antrim rallied in the final quarter with five unanswered scores leaving just a goal between the sides in added time.

Ruairi McCann’s goal attempt is saved by Offaly goalkeeper Ian Duffy early in the second half, which was to prove a seminal moment in the game

As the Saffrons chased a potential equaliser, the gaps opened in the Antrim defence and substitute Bernard Allen nipped in and sealed the win for his side with a second goal to ensure they begin the League campaign with two-points.

Playing with the breeze in the opening half, Offaly quickly tried to take advantage and landed the opening two scores through Joe Maher and Dylan Hyland.

Dominic McEnhill would reply from a high shot that he measured, and it hung in the wind and dropped over the bar to half the deficit.

Hyland confidently doubled his tally and restored Offaly’s two-point lead, with Creggan’s Ruairi McCann swinging over a reply at the other end.

Offaly went two-ahead for the third time courtesy of a Nigel Dunne free, and they went onto extend their lead with a further five unanswered scores.

Dunne played the providers role as Peter Cunningham shot up from centre-half back to notch a point.

Full-forward Anton Sullivan popped over and ten minutes before the break the opening goal arrived.

Peter Cunningham led the charge, though possession slipped from his grasp and the loose ball was seized upon by Ruairi McNamee- who found the roof of the net with a tidy finish to give his side a 1-06-0-02 lead.

Antrim’s Ryan Murray is challenged by Offaly’s Conor McNamee during the opening half

Back-to-back converted frees from Dylan Hyland made it six-unanswered for the visitors. Antrim ended the half with two points, both coming from frees courtesy of Ryan Murray and Dominic McEnhill- but at the break they had a mountain to climb, trailing 1-08-0-04.

Goal scorer Ruairi McNamee extended his sides lead two minutes after the restart and Pat Shivers responded with an excellent point to open his account for the afternoon.

Further points were traded between Anton Sullivan and Ryan Murray (free). On 43 minutes the Saffrons were denied a goal after a sweeping move forward saw the Ruairi McCann with a golden chance, but Ian Duffy made a terrific block.

A second converted Nigel Dunne free had Offaly 1-11-0-06 up on the 48th minute and things were relatively comfortable for the Faithful County.

Antrim’s Pat Shivers in action against Offaly’s Cian Farrell and Jack McEvoy

Creggan’s Ruairi McCann appeared to have cut the deficit with an effort that appeared to have crept over, but the umpire waved it wide to the disbelief of the majority inside Corrigan Park.

Aghagallon’s McCann would begin a run of five unanswered points after a great build-up with his Creggan namesake and Ryan Murray followed that up with his third converted free.

Murray was denied his fourth as his free from range dropped short and Aghagallon’s McCann fisted over.

The hosts were finding more joy and after Declan Lynch and Marc Jordan combined, Jordan laid the ball through to James McAuley to shoot high between the posts.

A goal would have really set-up a grandstand finish, but Antrim were twice denied in the closing stages.

First when the ball was worked to substitute Odhran Eastwood- though Ian Duffy made a brave save at his near post.

Ruairi McCann (Aghagallon) appeared to have sent over a point during the second half but to everyone’s surprise it was waved wide.

Ruairi McCann then rose to contest a high ball with Duffy on the edge of the small square and came out on top.

The ball was worked across to Patrick Finnegan for a tap-in, but Rory Egan somehow scrambled the ball off the line and prevented a certain goal.

Paddy McBride would drop a shot over the bar in the aftermath to leave a goal separating the sides with five minutes of injury-time remaining.

Andy McEntee’s charges had the momentum but were caught out at the other end as Bernard Allen raced onto a loose ball ahead of Mick Byrne and lifted the ball over the Antrim keeper and to the net to give Offaly a 2-11-0-11 lead.

Conor Stewart would conjure up Antrim’s final score of proceedings, however the visitors finished the contests scoring through a nice Anton Sullivan point to ensure they would run out two goal winners at the conclusion.

Antrim’s Dermot McAleese is chased down by three Offaly opponents.

Antrim: M Byrne, P Healy, D Lynch, J McAuley (0-01), D McAleese, J Finnegan, M Jordan, J Dowling, C Stewart (0-01), P McBride (0-01), R Murray (0-03f), C Duffin, P Shivers (0-01), R McCann (0-02), D McEnhill (0-02, 0-01f). Subs: R McCann (0-02) for D McEnhill (HT), K Small for J Dowling (HT), P Finnegan for C Duffin (49), O Ewastwood for R McCann (58), P Mervyn for J Finnegan (65).

Offaly: I Duffy, C Donohoe, D Hogan, D Dempsey, R Egan, P Cunningham (0-01), L Pearson, J McEvoy, C McNamee, J Maher (0-01), R McNamee (1-01), S O’Toole-Greene, N Dunne (0-02f), A Sullivan (0-03), D Hyland (0-04, 0-02f). Subs: B Allen (1-00) for S O’Toole-Greene (HT), C Farrell for N Dunne (48), L Egan for J Maher (63), J Bryant for D Hyland (70+2), A Brazil for C Donohoe (70+3).

Referee: Conor Dourneen (Cavan)

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