WHILE the difficulty of Cork’s All-Ireland SHC preliminary quarter-final win over Antrim on Saturday might have been a surprise to some, captain Mark Coleman was not among those.
The final score of 3-27 to 2-19 featured a last-minute goal by Séamus Harnedy but, with five minutes of normal time left, Antrim had a free to reduce the deficit to four points, having led by one at half-time.
The Joe McDonagh Cup winners will reflect on some poor shooting with the wind in the first half, but even so, Coleman knew what was coming.
“Maybe outside the camp, they were underrated,” he said. “We had done our homework on them and we knew what we were going to get from them. They’re a very well-trained team and there are passionate hurling people up there, so we knew we weren’t going to come up and get an easy game.
“We got a tough game, which is good preparation for us for next week.”
Cork’s next task is this Saturday’s quarter-final against Galway – and, ultimately, getting there was the mission for Coleman and the team, whatever the method.
“That’s the sport we’re playing in,” he said. “You go through those sticky patches and it’s all about how you react to it and I think we’d have been happy with how we reacted in the second half.
“When it mattered most, we were able to get over that sticky patch and tough it out and get the result we needed.
“They weren’t going to lie down in front of their own crowd in Belfast. We were ready for it and we knew what was coming – don’t get me wrong either, they’re a very good side, they played some good hurling and they had clever running off the ball.
“They used the ball very well and got some good scores from out the field. If you’re not at 100 percent – if you’re only at 90 or 95 percent – they’re a team that can punish you and they showed that.
“Maybe they were that bit sharper coming off last week. We might have just taken that bit of time to come back into it, get up to that match pace that they were at and, thankfully, once we reached it, we were able to drive on.”
Down a point at half-time, Cork didn’t engage in any panic. Now, the hope is that they can harness momentum.
“We said at half-time that there were a couple of things we needed to work on but we knew that we had the strength and the players to get out of it,” Coleman said.
“It was about racking up the scores, trying to get a distance between us. It’s all about playing these games and learning.
“We were sitting inside at half-time a point down and we had to think our way out of it so it’s definitely good preparation.
“It was tough on the bodies as well, a good workout, so good for next week. We’ll recover and go straight back into it for Galway.
“You can get away with two weekends in a row, thankfully, so hopefully that’ll work in our favour and we’ll have a bit of momentum going into next week.”
Meanwhile, in Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC (Divisions/Colleges) action this evening, Carbery face Duhallow in Coachford (7.30pm).
Last week, Carbery fell to a late Avondhu surge at the same venue, with Jeremy Ryan top-scoring for the south-west division with eight points while Philip Wall landed two goals and Darren O’Donovan got 1-1.
Duhallow only played one game last year, losing heavily to Muskerry and one of their key players from then, former Cork centre-back Mark Ellis, has since departed for America. They will look to the likes of Dromtarriffe’s Tomás Howard, Seán Howard and Brandon Murphy, Kevin Tarrant (Banteer), Darragh Cashman of Millstreet, Meelin duo Jason O’Callaghan and Shane Curtin and Newmarket pair Alan Ryan and Cathal Browne.