Cats await as Cork brush Antrim aside

Cork 1-25 Antrim 0-19

Cork will face Kilkenny in the semi-final of the GAA All-Ireland Hurling Senior Championship after they enjoyed a routine victory over Antrim at Croke Park this afternoon.

While the scoreline may indicate that Cork did not have things all their own way, they were always in control in a contest which seemed to lack some intensity.

Denis Walsh’s side did not hit top gear, but in truth they didn't need to as they were efficient enough to take the scoring opportunities that came their way, while not letting Antrim in with a real chance of causing an upset.

The Ulster side will take plenty of positives from this game though, and they were in no way disgraced by the defeat.

At times though, their lack of experience at this level cost them and a scoring burst of 1-2 in first-half injury time was crucial in ensuring Cork won with ease.

For most of the first half, Antrim did well to keep in touch with Cork. Four points was the most common gap between the sides, that amount separating them on seven different occasions.

From the off, Cork threatened to run away with, Paudie O’Sullivan setting the tone with a point inside 25 seconds and after seven minutes it was 0-4 to nil, Antrim struggling to find their feet.

Two Neil McManus frees helped the Saffrons to get back into the game though and once they settled they were more competitive, with full-forward Liam Watson recovering from an early booking for hitting Eoin Cadogan to convert four points.

Cork were that bit sharper though, with captain Kieran Murphy doing well at centre-forward having been moved there prior to throw-in and O’Sullivan and Tom Kenny were also on form, as well as Niall McCarthy.

Antrim full-back Cormack Donnelly was keeping Aisake O’hAilpín under wraps for the most part, and with McManus continuing to send over the frees they were not letting Cork get away.

McManus’s fifth free, coming after the second of Kieran Murphy’s points, cut the lead to three points, 0-14 to 0-11, with half-time approaching, but in injury time Cork did much to lay the foundations for the win.

First, McCarthy found the net with a clever batted finish from a tight angle after O’hAilpín set him up, and two Ben O’Connor frees left eight points in it at the break, 1-16 to 0-11.

Points from their standard-bearers, Watson and McManus, at the start of the second half ensured that Antrim would not let Cork pull away, but Cork always looked capable of taking points when they needed to and in the 45th minute Tom Kenny did well to stop a Liam Watson 20m free when a goal would have cut the gap to just three points.

John Gardiner’s long-range frees, and efforts from closer in by Ben O’Connor, were helping Cork and goalkeeper Donal Og Cusack, while underworked, was still alert enough to deny Karl Stewart a goal chance on 53.

Another Watson 20m free was blocked by Brian Murphy for a 65 with six minutes left and that proved to be Watson’s last activity, as he was shown a second yellow card following a scuffle.

Though McManus sent over the free that Antrim had been awarded before that melee, Antrim were never going to pull it back and Cork advanced, Cathal Naughton rounding off the win with a fine individual point while sub William Egan also got in on the act.

They will know, however, that a much sterner test awaits in three weeks’ time.

Cork: D. Og Cusack; S. Murphy, E. Cadogan, B. Murphy; J.Gardiner (0-3), R.Curran, R. Ryan; T. Kenny (0-3), C. Naughton (0-2); B. O'Connor (0-6), M. Cussen, N. McCarthy (1-2); P. O'Sullivan (0-3), A.

O’hAilpin (0-1), K. Murphy (0-4).

Subs: P. Horgan for O’hAilpin, P. Cronin for Cussen, W. Egan (0-1) for McCarthy

Antrim: C. O'Connell; K. McGourty, C. Donnelly, S. Delargey; P. Shiels, J. Campbell (0-1), C. Herron; S. McNaughton (0-1), K. Stewart; S. McCrory, N. McManus (0-9), T. McCann; P. J. O'Connell, L. Watson (0-6), K. McKeegan (0-1).

Subs: J. McKeague for Shiels, B. McFall for McCann, M. Herron (0-1) for McKeigue, D.Hamill for P. J. O'Connell, E. McCloskey for McNaughton.

Ref: M. Wadding (Waterford).

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