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Antrim's young guns show class in defeat

Hurling

Offaly 1-17 Antrim 0-14: Antrim exited the Walsh Cup at a sun-kissed O'Connor Park in Tullamore, falling to hosts Offaly by six points.

The Ulster side fielded eight of last year's under-21 team that reached the All-Ireland final as well as Ciaran Johnston who missed that game with a knee injury, while Chris McGuinness and Tomás Ó Ciarán also saw action.

Maybe it was the inexperience of senior inter-county hurling that cost Kevin Ryan's charges, who squandered a six point lead late in the first half.

Despite starting with five debutants, the Saffrons opened much brighter, with one of the new boys, Daniel McKernan, opening the scoring after two minutes.

Ciaran Clarke doubled the advantage before the Faithful County opened their account through Kevin Connolly.

Stephen McAfee (two), Barry McFall (two), Jackson McGreevy, Neil McManus and Clarke were all on target for Antrim.

Offaly's Joe Bergin had the final say of the half, pointing two frees to cut Antrim's half-time lead to four, 0-9 to 0-5.

Offaly took control with Bergin to the fore. The centre forward hit five points with McManus grabbing two to leave the sides locked at 0-12 entering the final quarter.

The decisive score arrived on 56 minutes when Conor McKinley's attempted hand-pass to Antrim sub keeper Colin Heyden went astray and sailed into the net.

A strong finish saw Offaly hit the final four points.

OFFALY: J Dempsey; N Wynne, D Kelleher, J Rigney; D Morkan (0-1), B Watkins, D Mooney; G Conneely, K Brady; S Cleary (0-1), J Bergin (0-9, 7 frees), P Geraghty (0-1); K Connolly (0-1), S Gardner, T Geraghty (0-2). Subs: D Kilmartin (0-1) for G Conneely (57 mins), B Harding (0-1) for S Cleary (57 mins).

ANTRIM: S McToal; Ciaran Johnson, E Campbell, M Bradley; S McCrory, C McKinley (1-0 OG), P Shiels; B McFall (0-2), J McGreevy (0-1); S McAfee (0-2), M Donnelly, N McKenna; D McKernan (0-2), N McManus (0-4, 3 frees), C Clarke (0-3, 2 frees). Subs: C Carson for M Donnelly (HT), C Heyden for S McToal (HT), C McGuinness for S McAfee (47 mins), N Elliott for C Clarke (47 mins),T Ó Ciarán for N McKenna (63 mins).

Referee: Paudie O'Dwyer (Carlow).

Belfast Telegraph

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