Sunday 19 January 2020

O hAilpin braced for Saffrons ambush

Sean Og O hAilpin won't be taking the challenge of Antrim lightly in this
Sunday's All-Ireland quarter-final.
Sean Og O hAilpin won't be taking the challenge of Antrim lightly in this Sunday's All-Ireland quarter-final.
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

"IS there any chance he'd do that again?" was Sean Og O hAilpin's tongue-in-cheek response when asked if he recalled Dinny Cahill's comments in the run-up to Antrim's 2004 All- Ireland quarter-final clash with Cork.

Cahill was in his first stint with the Saffrons when he launched an astonishing broadside on the Rebels.

"I have never been as confident of winning any game as I am about this one," said Cahill in an interview before the game in which he branded Cork's No 11 Niall McCarthy as a "dreadful centre-forward."

He also stated: "Cork must be in trouble if they have brought Brian Corcoran back. He's finished, and he'll definitely be finished after Sunday".

Predictably, Antrim paid the price and found themselves on the receiving end of a 22-point drubbing in Croke Park, with Corcoran helping himself to 2-1. Cork went on to win the Liam McCarthy cup that year and, in the process, foiled Kilkenny's three in-a-row bid.

"What disturbed us more than anything was that he had a go at (Brian) Corcoran," said O hAilpin. "And that completely changed the mindset in the lead-up to the Antrim game. And I think the game was over after 20 seconds. That is being honest with you."

Six years on, with Cahill back in charge in Antrim, the sides meet in the All-Ireland quarter-final once more.

O hAilpin continues to struggle with a hamstring injury that kept him out of last Saturday's Munster final replay defeat to Waterford and rates himself as having a 50-50 chance to be fit for Sunday's Croke Park tie.

The Rebels also have injury concerns over Ronan Curran, Shane O'Neill and Jerry O'Connor, while Antrim are coming off the back of a stirring win over Dublin, where they reeled in a six-point deficit in the closing stages to win by the minimum.

Cahill's back-room team includes former Cork trainer Jerry Wallis, as well as Bob Thornhill -- who was a selector on O hAilpin's Cork minor team in 1995 -- and the Na Piarsaigh man has taken note of the manner of the Ulster side's progression to the last six.

"That was an unbelievable blessing in disguise for Cork coming into this game," O hAilpin said. "We rate Dublin. Any time we've played Dublin, they would give us a fistful, if not beat us. So, by Antrim beating Dublin, that rings alarm bells.

"If we weren't forewarned up to now, we are definitely going into Sunday with out eyes open. Put yourself in Antrim's shoes. They are only 70 minutes away from an All-Ireland semi-final and they have as much right to win Sunday's game as Cork do.


"They are on a high whereas we are doing a bit of soul-searching from last Saturday's game. They are going in full of confidence."

The dubious reward for the winner of Sunday's game is a clash with record-chasing Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final. O hAilpin agreed that neither Waterford nor Cork would get close to the Cats on their Munster final performances and while he was reluctant to look past Antrim, he admitted they would love another crack at Brian Cody's side.

"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 (against Antrim), and that's a big 'if', we'll be going into the Kilkenny game as underdogs and all I can say about that is that it will suit us down to the ground."

Irish Independent

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