THE last time Antrim met Cork in the All-Ireland SHC quarter-final in July 2004, Tipperaryman Dinny Cahill was in charge of the Glensmen as well.
On that occasion, and in a bid to boost the hopes of his own side, Cahill gave a bullish interview talking up his side’s chances. Admirable attitude though it was, while talking up his own team and talking down Cork, Cahill also singled out a couple of Cork players for special mention.
Brian Corcoran was ‘finished’, Niall McCarthy was a ‘dreadful centre-forward’. It generated massive reaction on Leeside, provoked a merciless response from the Cork team, and with Corcoran top-scoring (2-1), Cork romped home, 2-26 to 0-10.
This week Cahill is far more guarded. Ironically, however, on this occasion his team have a more realistic chance of success.
Back in 2004 Cork were at the peak of their powers and on course for the first of their back-to-back All-Ireland titles. This Sunday it’s a wounded Cork team heading for Croke Park, injury concerns over four big players – Shane O’Neill, Ronan Curran, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín and Jerry O’Connor – while there is also the psychological damage to deal with after an extra-time Munster final loss last Saturday evening against Waterford. In stark contrast, Antrim are on a high, winners last weekend over hotly-favoured Dublin in the final round of the qualifiers. “Cork have a big panel, a strong panel,” insists Cahill. “They tried out a lot of players this year. They won’t be starting with 12 or 13 players, they’ll be starting with 15, and all those who are starting will have got some game-time in championship already this year.”
Cahill doesn’t believe Cork’s defeat to Waterford will have done lasting psychological damage. “If you look at the replay, they could have won that, had their chances, could have won the drawn game also but for a controversial free at the end,’’ he said. “That’s the ifs and buts of hurling.”
Antrim will have an inside track to the Cork team this week with former Rebels trainer Jerry Wallace now doing the honours in Belfast.
Not going to be a factor, says Cahill. “Jerry doesn’t ever say much about the opposition; he’s a great man to get players ready for a game, against any opposition, and that’s the key – be ready for the next game you play, have your plans right.”
And Antrim’s chances of victory? “Can’t comment!”, he laughs, coming over all coy. Once bitten...
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