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Kevin Ryan is upbeat as Antrim show fight against Offaly

Antrim 0-19 - 2-17 Offaly

By Declan Bogue

The poison that swirled around Antrim's system after last weekend's trouncing by Waterford has been drained slightly with yesterday's four-point defeat to Offaly.

Saffrons boss Kevin Ryan had intended to give a number of players some meaningful gametime in a match that was essentially a dead-rubber, and he was left impressed by the appetite of some of his younger players.

Michael Bradley of St John's hit five points from play, while Ryan McCambridge impressed.

Ryan said after the game; "I keep saying, we are not looking for moral victories, but we are looking for performances and we got that. I am definitely happy. We needed to be in the game up to the end and as I said to them, whether we won or lost made no difference to us, and probably Offaly as well, but a performance mattered to us."

Things looked bad for Antrim as early as 17 seconds into the game, when Offaly's Stephen Quirke sent a ball across to the unmarked Shane Dooley, who finished to the net.

They tagged on three more points before Antrim got their opening score from Paul Shiels.

In the next play however, Joe Bergin caught the ball over two Antrim men and his neat pass to Dooley ended up in the net, leaving Offaly eight points ahead with only 14 minutes gone.

Antrim eventually got to the pace of the game. Conor Johnston was using his strength to his advantage and grabbed three first half points, while Bradley hit two points from play, leaving the half-time score in Offaly's favour, 2-7 to 0-9, after a fantastic save in the closing seconds from Antrim goalkeeper Chris O'Connell from Bergin.

Again, Antrim allowed Offaly to make all the running and they clipped over the first four scores.

With only 15 minutes left, substitute Neil McManus played a brave one-two with Conor Carson to fire over and this sparked three more consecutive scores from Johnson, substitute Eoin Campbell and Simon McCrory.

Antrim, however, could not get the scores to turn a brave performance into a win. Next Saturday in Portlaoise, Antrim play Laois in a match that will decide who will face the winners of Division 2A in a promotion/relegation play-off.

Antrim: C McConnell; O McFadden, T McCann 0-1, T O'Ciaran; E McAlonan, R McCambridge, P Shiels 0-2, 1f; A Graffin, S McCrory 0-1; D Hamill 0-1, C Carson 0-1, M Bradley 0-5; C Johnson 0-4, 2f, C McCann, S McNaughton. Subs: N McManus 0-1, 1f, for O'Ciarain, PJ O'Connell for C McCann (half-time), M Donnelly for Graffin (36m), E Campbell 0-1, for McNaughton (47m), C Clarke 0-1, for Hamill (51m). Yellow cards: McManus (67m), McCambridge (72m)

Red cards: 0

Offaly: J Dempsey; S Wynne, D Shortt, D King; C Parlon, C Egan, E Murphy; S Ryan, P Camon; E Nolan, J Mulrooney, J Bergin 0-4; S Quirke 0-1, D Currams 0-3, S Dooley 2-6, 5f. Subs: C McDonald for Wynne (38m), S Cleary for Mulrooney (47m), B Carroll 0-2, 1f, for Dooley (51m), C Kiely 0-1, for Nolan (56m), C Mulrooney for Camon (62m)

Yellow cards: Murphy (59m)

Red cards: 0

Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway).


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