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Seán óg sights on Cats in semi

SEán óG ó hAILPíN admits that the Cork hurlers on current form can't hope to beat Kilkenny in an All-Ireland semi-final -- and that's presuming they survive Sunday's potential banana skin against Antrim.

"Are the winners out of this game (Cork/Antrim) only prolonging their misery because they are going to meet Kilkenny? The general consensus is that no one is going to beat them," the veteran wing-back conceded at an Ulster Bank sponsorship launch in Dublin yesterday.

"Sunday is going to be a tough game and the prize for winning that game is a nice, beautiful game against Kilkenny."

Based on the performances of both Cork and eventual winners Waterford in last Saturday night's Munster final replay, ó hAilpín can't see either of them beating Kilkenny on current form.

"That is not to say that we can't," he added, before warning: "I don't want to be getting too ahead of myself here. There is one sure thing about sport -- uncertainty. I'd look like a right fool talking about Kilkenny now.

"Put it this way: if we do win (on Sunday) and that's a big 'if', we'll be going into Kilkenny as underdogs and all I can say is that will suit us down to the ground."

ó hAilpín was forced to sit out the Déise defeat with a hamstring injury sustained in the drawn Munster decider six days earlier. The injury was "less than a grade one tear" and he has resumed running, but cautions that his chances of featuring against Antrim are still only 50-50.

This Sunday's latest showdown with the Saffrons evokes memories of a similar quarter-final in 2004, before which Antrim boss Dinny Cahill boldly declared he had "never been as confident" of winning a game. However, further disparaging remarks from the Tipp native about Cork talisman Brian Corcoran ("he's finished, and he'll definitely be finished after Sunday") and Niall McCarthy ("they have a dreadful centre-forward") merely succeeded in stirring a fearsome backlash from the Rebels, who ran out 2-26 to 0-10 winners.

By a delicious twist, Cahill is now back for his second stint as Antrim boss.

"Is there any chance he'd do that again?" quipped ó hAilpín who, recalling that '04 spat, revealed: "What disturbed us more than anything was that he had a go at Corcoran.

"And that completely changed the mindset in the lead-up to the Antrim game. And I think the game was over after 20 seconds."


This time, perhaps, the ball will be on the other foot as Cahill may wish to pounce on ó hAilpín's own remark, in the wake of Cork's Waterford defeat, that he didn't even realise Antrim were still in the championship.

If that happens, the evergreen wing-back won't bat an eyelid. "I actually didn't realise Antrim were still in it and that was probably Seán Óg in a bubble of himself, just worried about Cork games," he explained.

"If you spoke to me about earlier round games I couldn't tell you who played who. To be honest I don't give a damn -- I am just worried about Cork and how Cork progress in the championship.

"That is not belittling Antrim or being derogatory, far from it. I have great friends in Antrim. I go up there every year to Cushendall to visit good hurling people.

"They know where I am coming from when I make that statement."