They now play Kilkenny in next Saturday’s final in Thurles, but Cork coach John Keane was still not happy: “If we perform like that in the final, Kilkenny will hockey us,” said Keane. “We were ring rusty, very complacent at times and didn’t play anywhere near as well as we can.
“Antrim may have been understrength, but they put up a tremendous display, and the seven point victory is a bit flattering to our lads.
“The lads won’t need any reminding from me that we’ll have to improve at least 50% if we are to retain our title.”
In that opening half when Antrim had a full complement of players, Cork were forced to defend for long periods and were grateful for the excellence of Liam Hayes, Rory McCarthy in the full-back line and Dessie Fitzgerald in the half line. Tadhg Healy and Jonathan Olden had their moments in midfield, while Eoin Conway, Rory O’Doherty and Barry O’Dwyer were the pick of the attack.
Antrim were forced to field without five first choice players due to club commitments yesterday, and may well have caused an upset had they been at full strength. All credit then to those who did play and they certainly weren’t disgraced.
They had excellent players in Euan McKillop, Brendan Quinn and Paddy Quinn who caused endless problems for the Cork defence all through. Cork threatened to win the game in a canter after Rory O’Doherty scored a goal which helped his side into a 1-2 to 0-1 lead after five minutes.
However, taking inspiration from the busy Paddy Cunningham and Brendan Quinn, the northerners were on level terms at the end of the opening quarter. O’Doherty struck for his second goal two minutes later but again Antrim refused to lie down and, coming up to half-time, shocked Cork when Kevin McMullen slipped home a goal which gave his side the lead.
Eoin Conway showed just how easy it was to prise open the Antrim defence however and his goal, Cork’s third, left the defending champions 3-6 to 1-8 in front at half time.
Antrim took a hammer blow a minute after the resumption when Jim McKernan received a straight red card for a reckless pull on Barry O’Dwyer. Then Eoin Conway got through for his second goal in the 37th minute.
Antrim battled on but they could never break down a resolute Cork defence in which Rory McCarthy and Liam Hayes were particularly impressive.
Both sides added a goal each in the closing minutes, substitute Pa Dineen for Cork, and the busy Brian Quinn for Antrim.
: Cork: R. O’Doherty, E. Conway 2-0 each; P. Dineen 1-0; D. Dineen (0-1 free), B. O’Dwyer 0-3 each; J. Olden, J. Russell, D. Fitzgerald (free) 0-1 each. Antrim: P. Cunningham 0-7 (0-4 frees); B. Quinn 1-2 (0-1 free); K. McMullen 1-0; E. McKellop (free), P. Donnelly 0-1 each.
: A. Nash; J. Crowley, L. Hayes, R. McCarthy; B. Walsh, t. Lordan, D. Fitzgerald; t. Healy, J. Olden; E. Conway, D. Dineen, B. O’Dwyer; J. Russell, R. O’Doherty, S. Hayes. Subs. T. Burke for Walsh; P. Dineen for D. Dineen; B. Johnson for O’Doherty; B. O’Driscoll for Lordan; D. O’Connell for Hayes.
: PJ McMullen; N. Murray, P. Kelly, P. O’Donnell; S. Reid. T. Doyle, J. McKernan; M. Gettins, E. McKillop; E. McGarry, P. Donnelly, B. Quinn; P. Coughlan, K. McMullen, de. McKernan. Subs. N. Gillen for Doyle; J. McGarry for Kelly; J. Scullion for O’Donnell; D. Tierney for Reid.
: J. Kelly (Wexford).
The All-Ireland U-16 HC final between Antrim and Carlow, due to be played as a curtain-raiser, was postponed as the intermediate game was put back to 6.15pm.