Antrim v Cork: Robert Downey knows Rebels can't afford to look beyond next challenge

“We can't really look too far forward, otherwise we'll slip up."
Antrim v Cork: Robert Downey knows Rebels can't afford to look beyond next challenge

Cork's Robert Downey (second from right) with Cathal Malone (Clare), Lee Chin (Wexford), Richie Reid (Kilkenny), Mike Casey (Limerick), GAA President Larry McCarthy and Gearóid McInerney (Galway) at the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Series national launch in Loughmore Castleiney GAA club, Tipperary. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Despite the fact that Cork are unbackable favourites for today’s All-Ireland SHC preliminary quarter-final against Antrim in Corrigan Park (2pm), full-back Robert Downey insists that there will no complacency at all in the camp.

Having lost their first two Munster SHC games to Limerick and Clare, Cork got back on track as wins over Waterford and Tipperary secured third place in the table. Now, the Joe McDonagh Cup winners Antrim stand in the way of a quarter-final meeting with Galway but nobody is taking the Glensmen for granted.

“Antrim is the next game and it's all we're really looking at,” Downey says.

“We can't really look too far forward, otherwise we'll slip up. To be honest, all our focus and preparation has been on Antrim the last number of weeks. We just hope we can get over the line.

“At the end of the day Antrim deserve to be in the All-Ireland series. They won the Joe McDonagh, which was a fantastic game that could have gone either way. They have some brilliant players. Keelan Molloy, Neil McManus, their freetaker Conal Cunning is another fantastic player.

“We'll have our work cut out for us and if you even only look at the Westmeath-Wexford match recently, you wouldn't have expected Westmeath to draw with Wexford. So, yeah, we need to be on our game big-time to avoid a slip-up.”

Antrim claimed their second McDonagh title in three years as they beat Kerry in Croke Park last Saturday. Downey feels that that momentum, and the benefit of home advantage, will stand to the Ulster side.

“I only watched [the final] at home,” he says, “but, just looking on, they're a very well-balanced side.

“Both their backs and they've some fantastic forwards. Household names like Neil McManus and a couple more. And I suppose going up there as well it will be a hostile enough environment. It's a small field and I think tickets sold out in an hour so it'll be packed out as well.

“Their confidence will be up as well because of obviously after the Joe McDonagh Cup final and they'll bring a big support. We need to be on our game if we're to turn them over.”

Cork do at least have some momentum of their own, having turned their campaign around with a win over Waterford in Walsh Park. While the criticism prior to that was loud, Downey says it didn’t affect the camp.

Now, having got the ship going in the right direction again, the task is to make sure that the consistency and confidence remain in strong supply.

“To be honest with you, whatever was being said about our character or whatever, we didn’t take too much notice of it,” he says.

“We knew inside that we have a good group, and if we trusted each other and stayed tight, stuck to our process and stayed positive, we’d be able to turn Waterford over, and thankfully we did.

“Look, being consistent every week is what every team wants to achieve, and for us we weren’t the first two weeks, and thankfully from just training hard and staying tight with each other, we were able to achieve that level of consistency that brought us two wins on the bounce.”

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