Favourites tag no help to Gaels - Comerford
HAVING been installed as underdogs for a number of key games in this campaign, former Kilkenny star Andy Comerford doesn't believe the favourites' tag will suit his O'Loughlin Gaels side as they face Antrim's Loughgiel Shamrocks in the All-Ireland club SHC semi-final at Parnell Park on Saturday.
O'Loughlins were outsiders in their county semi-final and final, where they beat five-in-a-row-chasing Ballyhale Shamrocks and Carrickshock respectively, while they also toppled a fancied Oulart-The Ballagh side in the Leinster final. But on Saturday, they are clear favourites (1/7) to oust the Ulster men and set up a final date with either De La Salle or Clarinbridge on St Patrick's Day.
"We are red hot favourites but we're definitely a team that needs to be backed into a corner and then we come out fighting," Comerford said. "The more pressure is put on us and the more teams get on top of us the more we fight back. The favourites' tag is something we have to live with and we'll see how we progress with that.
"But it doesn't really suit this team to be favourites, they rather come in as underdogs and then rise to the challenge of people writing them off. That's what they did against Ballyhale and that's what they did against Oulart."
Comerford manages the Kilkenny city side along with Michael Nolan, but the former Kildare manager played on the last O'Loughlins side to reach this stage in 2004, when Newtownshandrum beat them after a replay on the way to an All-Ireland title.
"It didn't happen for us on the day. I was more disappointed for the club, when you look back and see that it (an All-Ireland title) is something which has eluded the club.
"We have won championship and won Leinsters so this club has ambitions of winning All-Irelands. The bulk of the players are there from the last time and they want to put it right."
Brian Hogan and Comerford's brother Martin are the star turns in the side, but full-back Andy Kearns is a major doubt. Loughgiel boast the likes of Liam Watson and, as the only Ulster side to win the All-Ireland title, they have history on their side. And after Waterford's De La Salle were brought to extra-time at Parnell Park by another Antrim outfit (Cushendall) in 2009, Comerford insists the bookmakers' odds will go out the window when the ball is thrown in.
"We're in a different position going into this match and we definitely won't be taking Loughgiel Shamrocks for granted. I played against (Antrim teams) as a player and we know what they bring to the table and that's ultimate commitment. They have done some great underage work and they do great hurling work in general in various parts of Antrim. They'll go for us for the 60 minutes.
"We'll have to keep a close eye on Liam Watson -- he's a serious forward as he proved last year on Eoin Cadogan at Croke Park. He's well able to take points and he could bury you.
"I have footage on them, a couple of DVDs and I saw them first hand when I was with Kildare and they won't lack anything for commitment.
"Some of our younger players wouldn't have experience of playing against northern teams and they are a different breed of hurler. They will fight to the bitter end and the younger players on our team will have to be steeled up for that."