Joe McDonagh Cup: Antrim beat struggling Offaly 3-23 to 4-18 in Tullamore

Antrim's Nigel Elliott
Nigel Elliott's decisive goal was Antrim's final score of the game

Keelan Molloy netted twice as 14-man Antrim secured a vital Joe McDonagh Cup win over relegation-threatened Offaly.

Saffrons full-back Martin Burke was shown an early red card but Molloy's double and a late Nigel Elliott goal helped the visitors to a thrilling win.

Offaly scored three second-half goals but Conor Mahon's dismissal was costly as the home side fell to a third loss.

The victory lifts Antrim above Kerry into second place ahead of their round four match against Westmeath on 8 June.

Laois, who beat the Saffons in round two, continue to top the table on points difference having played one game less than Antrim while Offaly are two points adrift at the bottom after three consecutive defeats.

Undermanned Saffrons battle back

Antrim started started brightly and led by 0-2 to 0-0 early on thanks to scores from Nigel Elliott and Neil McManus but were reduced to 14 men after just eight minutes when Burke was shown a straight red card by referee Liam Gordon after a skirmish.

Offaly moved 0-4 to 0-2 in front by the 18th minute but little separated the sides throughout and the visitors led by 2-10 to 1-11 at half-time, with Keelan Molloy netting both of their first-half goals, either side of Oisin Kelly's goal for the home side.

Antrim's Neil McManus
Neil McManus was Antrim's leading scorer with 0-10 (0-7f)

Quick scores from Eoghan Campell and Nicky McKeague extended Antrim's lead but the Faithful County powered back thanks to the efforts of Joe Bergin, who netted a 39th-minute goal, in a frantic start to the second half before Kelly netted his second to help Offaly to a 3-15 to 2-17 lead after 56 minutes despite Mahon's red card for shoulder charge on Matthew Donnelly.

Antrim responded by firing an unanswered 1-6, with some brilliant points from Eoghan Campbell and Neil McManus before Eliott's crucial goal in the 65th minute.

The Saffrons led by 3-23 to 3-15 as the game entered the final minutes of normal time but they were unable to score again as Offaly attacked their goal in waves.

Joe McDonagh Cup table
PWDLFAPts
Laois220064524
Antrim320182744
Westmeath210149382
Kerry210138502
Offaly300374930

The crowd at O'Connor Park were treated to a grandstand-finish when Sean Cleary fired home Offaly's fourth goal in the 68th minute to reduce the gap to five points.

Bergin converted three frees to further shrink Antrim's lead during five, tense injury-time minutes but the Antrim defence stood strong in the dying seconds and denied Cleary a last-ditch score to clinch a two-point victory.

The win is Antrim's second of the competition, while a third defeat for Offaly sees the Faithful County firmly in the relegation zone, after failing to pick up a win from their three games.

Offaly: E Cahill (0-1, 1f); B Conneely; D Shortt, P Camon; C Kiely (0-1), S Kinsella, M Egan; A Treacy (0-3), P Murphy (0-1); C Egan, J Bergin (1-6, 4f, 2 '65'), P Geraghty (0-2); S Dooley, O Kelly (2-2), K Connolly (0-1).

Subs: C Mahon for C Egan (15); D Nally (0-1) for D Shortt (HT); S Cleary (1-0) for S Dooley (HT); K Dunne for P Murphy (40); D O'Toole Green for P Camon (49).

Antrim: R Elliot; S Rooney, M Burke; P Duffin; P Burke, D Kearney, M Donnelly; N McManus (0-10, 7f), N McKeague (0-1); N Elliot (1-1), R McCambridge, K Molloy (2-0); C Clarke (0-3), J Maskey (0-1), E O'Neill.

Subs: J McNaughton (0-4) for E O'Neill; E Campbell (0-3) for R McCambridge (35); J Dillon for D Kearney (57); D McCluskey for C Clarke (73)

Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway)

WEEKEND HURLING FIXTURES

Saturday

Joe McDonagh Cup
Offaly4-18Antrim3-23
Christy Ring Cup
Donegal2-15Down7-22
Derry0-16Wicklow1-16
Roscommon 0-19Meath0-23
London2-16Kildare2-19
Nicky Rackard Cup
Longford0-14Armagh0-24
Monaghan2-15Warwickshire3-12
Tyrone2-21Louth1-17
Sligo2-16Mayo1-19

Sunday

Leinster SHC
Carlow1-13Dublin2-22
Munster SHC
Waterford0-10Limerick2-24
Clare0-17Tipperary3-21

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