Cork v Antrim: Dinny Cahill's comments served to rile Rebels in 2004

Ill-advised quotes only gave Cork motivation
Cork v Antrim: Dinny Cahill's comments served to rile Rebels in 2004

Cork's Niall McCarthy holding off Michael Magill of Antrim during the 2004 All-Ireland SHC quarter-final at Croke Park. Picture: Dan Linehan

While we often bemoan the ability of GAA players and managers to talk but say nothing, there is a fairly logical reasoning to it.

Kieran Kingston and Robert Downey were both interviewed this week and the manager and full-back were sure to give Antrim their due respect. We don’t doubt for a second that Cork are taking their task seriously, but even so, it’s important not to give the opposition any chip on the shoulder. A Cork-Antrim clash from 2004 is enough proof of that.

After losing to Waterford in the Munster final, the Rebels got back on track with a qualifier win over Tipperary in Killarney, with Niall McCarthy winning the man-of-the-match award.

Then, as outlined by Michael Moynihan in Blood Brothers, the story of Cork hurling from 1996-2008, Antrim manager Dinny Cahill put his mouth in gear.

“Motivation was never going to be an issue for a Cork-Tipp clash, but Cork drew Antrim in the quarter-finals. O’Grady spent a week wondering what he’d say to his players to motivate them and the player were as worried as the manager. Joe Deane recalls warning people he met that Antrim were going to beat someone sometime, and being answered with scepticism when he suggested it might be Cork.

“Antrim had done well against Tipperary the previous year, and O’Grady feared an ambush. Then, as Deane says, Cork prayers were anwered.

“’On the Wednesday, I got a phone call from [team logistics manager] Jim McEvoy to read the paper,’ O’Grady says. ‘He said that my worries about what to say to the players had been sorted out by Dinny Cahill.’”

The Glensmen had held a press evening on the Tuesday before the game and Tipperary native Cahill didn’t leave any ambiguity about his feelings.

“We are going to win the All-Ireland this year,” he said.

“We can win the All-Ireland after getting over this game, anything can happen from there. “Cork must have a problem when they recall Brian Corcoran. They have to have problems. They have a dreadful inside forward line all season, couldn’t get the scores. They had to recall a man who was finished playing. Well, he will be finished after Sunday. There’s no doubt about that.

“I talk straight. I say what is true. People can publish what they like but I’m telling the truth. Cork are finished, Brian Corcoran is finished.

“If you’re not positive...I could be negative here and say Cork are going to win it. But I’m not driving 200 miles to lose. I’m driving 200 miles to win.

“They have a dreadful centre forward [Niall McCarthy] but he got away with it last time because Tipp have a dreadful centre back [Declan Fanning].”

While there might have been some strategy behind Cahill’s comments, it didn’t go to plan as Cork won by 2-26 to 0-10 with Corcoran getting both of the goals. In his autobiography, Every Single Ball, the Erin’s Own star recalled how O’Grady channelled the criticism.

“Before the game, O’Grady was as passionate as he had been at half-time in Killarney,” he wrote.

“He took out some of Wednesday’s newspapers. ‘This is personal. Look at what this man said about two of our players. There’s only one answer to that.’ Then he rolled the clippings into a ball and threw it to the ground. ‘Destroy them.’ By half-time, I’d scored two goals, Niall was flying and we were sixteen points up. Game over.”

To give Cahill credit, he came into the Cork dressing room afterwards and congratulated them and, speaking to the media afterwards, he tried to clarify somewhat.

“I have no regrets,” he said.

“What I said was very simple: I said Brian Corcoran came out of retirement because they had trouble at full-forward. Brian Corcoran was always a good hurler. I never said he wasn't a good hurler. I said he might be thinking of retiring when the game is over.

"It was an awful shame that Brian did miss out in the last four years - he would've been an awful boost to them in an All-Ireland final.

"The comments were blown completely out of proportion. What I said was very simple stuff. I was more critical of the Tipperary defence than I was of Niall McCarthy or Brian Corcoran. It was not what I said but just how they picked it up.”

Cork went on to beat Wexford and Kilkenny to regain the All-Ireland title and, while that was the end of Cahill’s three-year term in Antrim, he returned in 2010 and they again met Cork. This time, his pre-match comments less incendiary, they battled hard but came out on the wrong side of a 1-25 to 0-19 scoreline.

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