Joe McDonagh Cup
Antrim 3-22 Offaly 2-24
By David Mohan at Corrigan Park (from gaa.ie website)
A goal deep in stoppage time from Conor Johnston settled a thrilling Joe McDonagh Cup opener at Corrigan Park in Belfast as Antrim claimed an opening win over Offaly.
The corner-forward buried his second goal of the day just after it appeared the 14-man Faithful had almost 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.
When Conal Cunning was off target with a late free, there was a sense Antrim may have squandered a hugely advantageous position just minutes earlier, but up they held their nerve and found the winner with Johnston crashing home.
Cahill did have a last-gasp chance to snatch it back for Offaly, his free from around 30 metres flew over.
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 stopage 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 goal as the Saffons got their McDonagh campaign off to a winning start.
Scorers for Antrim: Conal Cunning 0-10 (7 frees, 1 65), Conor Johnston 2-2, Conor McCann 1-1, Ciaran Clarke 0-3, Paddy Burke 0-2, Ryan McGarry 0-1, Keelan Molloy 0-1, James McNaughton 0-1.
Scorers for Offaly: Eoghan Cahill 0-14 (11 frees, 1 sideline, 1 65), David Nally 1-3, Paddy Clancy 1-0, Adrian Cleary 0-2, Eimhin Kelly 0-1, Leon Fox 0-1, Brian Duignan 0-1, Jason Sampson 0-1, Luke O’Connor 0-1.
Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Ryan McGarry, Gerard Walsh, Stephen Rooney; Paddy Burke, Eoghan Campbell, Scott Walsh; Joe Maskey, Keelan Molloy; Seaan Elliott, Domhnall Nugent, Conor McCann; Conal Cunning, Ciaran Clarke, Conor Johnston.
Subs: James McNaughton for K Molloy (HT), Phelim Duffin for S Rooney (57), Matthew Donnelly for S Walsh (62), Daniel McKernan for S Elliott (64), Conal Bohill for D Nugent (69).
Offaly: Stephen Corcoran; Joey Keenaghan, David King, Padraig Cantwell; Eoin Parlon, Ben Conneely, Eimhin Kelly; Jack Screeney, Leon Fox; Adrian Cleary, Eoghan Cahill, Brian Duignan; Sean Cleary, Jason Sampson, David Nally.
Subs: Luke O’Connor for S Cleary (48), John Murphy for L Fox (52), Killian Sampson for B Duignan (54), Ciaran Burke for E Parlon (63), Paddy Clancy for A Cleary (68).
Referee: Chris Mooney (Dublin).