14 man Offaly show real grit and skill to see off Antrim
All Ireland Senior Football Qualifiers Rd 1
Offaly 2-20 Antrim 1-15
Despite playing almost 25 minutes with only 14 men, Offaly showed true grit and no little skill as they advanced to Round 2 of the Qualifiers with a win over Antrim in O'Connor Park.
Under the new management team headed by Paul Rouse, Offaly played an attacking brand of football, defended sharply and showed excellent fitness in the energy sapping heat. Offaly scored an impressive 2-20 and it could have been even more but for some early wides and some missed opportunities and a head scratching decision by the referee not to award a penalty just before half-time when Johnny Moloney was taken out with the goal at his mercy.
Offaly made a somewhat nervous start to the game as the sides were sizing each other up but as the first-half progressed, they began to take control and by half-time they were 0-11 to 0-8 to the good.
They maintained that control after half-time but they were dealt a blow when Nigel Dunne was sent off following an off the ball incident. Antrim briefly threatened a revival after the sending off but Offaly regathered themselves and points from Cian Donohue and Alan Mulhall and an all important goal from Bernard Allen with 20 minutes to go crucially steadied the ship.
From there on, Offaly were always in control in the glorious sunshine in O'Connor Park as the defeat against Wicklow and the ensuing management change were put firmly in the rear view mirror.
The new Offaly management team made some crucial switches during the game with the move of Johnny Moloney closer to goal from midfield proving crucial. As the first-half wore on, Offaly exerted pressure on the Antrim kick-outs which helped to create a number of scoring opportunities.
It was nip and tuck in the early exchanges with Offaly missing a number of scoring chances. By the 20th minute, Antrim had pulled out a two point lead but Offaly eventually managed to get a grip on the game with the returning Johnny Moloney hitting two scores and Michael Brazil one as Offaly drew level.
Offaly finished the half like a train with Johnny Moloney, Niall Darby and Bernard Allen all pointing to give Offaly a 0-11 to 0-8 lead.
That lead was extended to four early in the second-half but after Nigel Dunne was sent off for an off the ball incident, Antrim pulled back two points with the impressive Paddy McBride on the mark.
At this stage the game could have gone either way but Offaly hit 1-2 in quick succession, with Bernard Allen getting the goal, to open up much needed breathing space with a 1-15 to 0-11 lead.
From there, Offaly were always in control with Bernard Allen, Johnny Moloney, Alan Mulhall and Shane Tierney all pointing.
Substitute Jamie Evans added a second goal for Offaly late on and while hit back with a goal of their own on the rebound after a fine save from Alan Mulhall, Shane Tierney made sure Offaly had the final say with a point to round off the hugely impressive win.
Offaly now go into the hat for the draw for the second round of the Qualifiers where they will face one of the beaten provincial semi-finalists.
OFFALY: Alan Mulhall (0-2f); Brian Darby (0-1), James Lalor, Sean Pender; Declan Hogan, Paul McConway, Niall Darby (0-1); Michael Brazil (0-1), Johnny Moloney (0-4); Cian Donohue (0-1), Shane Nally (0-1), Conor McNamee (0-1); Nigel Dunne (0-3), Anton Sullivan, Bernard Allen (1-3, 0-1f). Subs: Ruairi McNamee for Nally (42mins), Jamie Evans (1-0) for Donohue (58mins), Shane Tierney (0-2, 0-1f) for Allen (62mins), David Dempsey for Hogan (66mins), Jordan Hayes for Sullivan (67mins), Eoin Carroll for Moloney (70mins).
ANTRIM: A Masson; P Healy, P Gallagher, N Delargy; K O’Boyle, M Sweeney J Laverty; P McAleer (0-1), C Murray; P McBride (0-6, 0-3f), M Fitzpatrick, R McCann; K Healy (0-1) R Murray (0-2, one free), C Duffin (0-2). Subs: S Beatty (0-2) for C Murray (21 mins), N McKeever for O’Boyle (27mins), M McCarry (0-1) for McKeever (51 mins), J Smyth (1-0) for McCann (53 mins), O Eastwood for K Healy (58mins), P Branagan for Laverty (61mins).