Antrim retain top-flight status with win over Offaly
Antrim 1-18 Offaly 1-14: Antrim's hurlers secured Division 1B status for 2015 with a four-point win over Offaly in yesterday's relegation play-off at a blustery Ballycastle.
Nine points from the stick of Dunloy clubman Paul Shiels provided the platform for an Antrim comeback after the Saffrons trailed by eight points after 25 minutes.
Offaly led by three at the break but the home side, inspired by Shiels, reined in the favourites over the second 35 minutes to deservedly retain their place in the top-flight.
The visitors got off to a flying start, with Stephen Quirke firing to the net after five minutes.
The lively PJ O'Connell replied for the home side but it was the Faithful men who were in control with Joe Bergin pulling the strings.
Two Bergin frees brought up a eight point lead, before Shiels sparked the Antrim revival, firing over his side's first score for 16 minutes. The same player then added a superb effort from range before Conor Carson's goal.
A Neil McManus free broke on the edge of the square and Carson pulled to the net to cut the gap to three on 30 minutes. Two Carroll points gave Offaly a three-point cushion, 1-11 to 1-8, at the break.
Within six minutes of the restart, the sides were level, but Antrim accounted for five of the final six points to seal the win.
Antrim manager Kevin Ryan enjoyed his side's first league win of the year. He said: "It means so much to us to stay in 1B but we have four weeks now to prepare for championship. I'm delighted for all the lads."
Meanwhile, Armagh secured Division 2B hurling next year with a 4-12 to 0-8 win over Fingal.
Antrim: C O'Connell; Ciaran Johnson, C McKinley, O McFadden; E Campbell (0-2), N McAuley, P Shiels (0-9, 4f, 0-1 '65'); D Hamill, C McCann; C Carson (1-1), M Donnelly, S McAfee; N McManus (0-3, 1f), PJ O'Connell (0-3), Conor Johnson. Subs: B McFall for S McAfee, N McKenna for C McCann, C Clarke for M Donnelly, D McKernan for C Johnson, J McGreevy for C Clarke.
Offaly: J Dempsey; N Wynne, G Healion, J Rigney; C Parlon, C Egan, C McDonald; K Brady, T Geraghty; J Bergin (0-5, 4f), C Mahon (0-1), S Dooley (0-1); B Carroll (0-3), D Currams (0-2), S Quirke (1-2). Subs: S Cleary for K Brady, K Connolly for B Carroll.
Referee: J Owens (Wexford).