GAA: Antrim face up to tough tussle at Croke
Success in sport often comes at a price - ust ask Antrim hurlers whose reward for beating Dublin is an All Ireland quarter-final showdown with old adversaries Cork in Croke Park tomorrow afternoon.
Karl Stewart’s dramatic late point has taken Antrim to a new and demanding level.
They are now in with one of the sport’s elite — a county which once won All Irelands for fun.
Tipperary native Dinny Cahill has again worked his own special brand of magic backed up by his two new lieutenants from Cork.
Beating Dublin is one thing but Cork in a quarter-final is a totally different proposition.
Cahill in fairness has instilled Antrim with a self belief that wasn’t always evident in the past and that will come under the closest scrutiny against an ageing Cork side.
For Antrim it’s a sobering thought that when these sides last met in the Championship the Leesiders prevailed on a 2-26 to 0-10 scoreline.
But times moves on and it remains to be seen just how much the drawn game and replay with Waterford has taken out of Cork.
And it will be difficult for Cork to reconcile the fact that they could have lost both those matches, especially the drawn match in which Waterford enjoyed the rub of the green.
Cork too will be concerned that the Saffrons come into this game very much on a high with nothing to lose.
They have already exceeded all expectations by beating Dublin
for the first time in the Championship, storming back from being six points in arrears to deny the Dubs by virtue of Karl Stewart’s late, dramatic winning point.
When the sides last met in the Championship Cork took to heart some comments by Antrim boss Dinny Cahill regarding Cork players Niall McCarthy and Brian Corcoran. Ironically this time there appears to be a case of role reversal.
For earlier this week Cork’s Sean Og OhAilpin has gone on
record to say he meant no disrespect when he said he thought Antrim were out of the Championship.
“If you asked me about the earlier round games in the Championship I couldn’t tell you who played who,” he said.
“My whole focus is on Cork. We’ve enough to worry about ourselves never mind other counties.”
OhAilpin is adamant that Antrim’s shock victory over Dublin has sent the alarm bells ringing.
“Things have actually worked out very well for us. When we played Dublin in the past they always put it up to us so Antrim‘s win over Dublin has wiped out any complacency,” he said.
The Cork man admits Cahill's comments six years ago upset him, especially remarks about two of his colleagues.
This time Cahill has been more restrained, the whole focus on getting the Saffrons in the right frame of mind for one of their biggest matches in years.
He knows better than anyone else that captain Paul Shiels and his men must raise their game to new and unprecedented levels if they are to keep in contention and deny the Rebel county.
Cork, forced to live in Kilkenny’s giant shadow for the last five seasons, show two changes from the side that lost the Munster final replay.
But they will again start overwhelming favourites.