“I still think they are going to struggle in this division.”
Dónal Óg Cusack believes Antrim will struggle in Division 1, despite beating Clare in Corrigan Park, Belfast on Saturday.
The Saffrons went into the game as 10/1 underdogs, but a sensational Neil McManus point, from his own 45m line, sealed a famous win for the 2020 Joe McDonagh champions.
Óg Cusack on Antrim’s victory over Clare.
However, despite their victory over Clare on Sunday, the former Cork goalkeeper is still not convinced that Antrim have what it takes to compete in Division 1.
“On the evidence that day, there was a stark difference in terms of physicality and the quality of the McDonagh Cup final as to the game afterwards (Limerick-Waterford All-Ireland final),” Óg Cusack said on The Sunday Game.
“Nobody was as happy as me with that result today. Every other hurling person in Ireland was delighted to see it – an absolute fillip to the National League and to hurling.
“I’d be delighted if this pundit here would be proved wrong on many, many more occasions.
“But I still think they are going to struggle in this division.”
"It's an absolute fillip to the National League and to hurling… but I still think Antrim will still struggle in this division"
Dónal Óg Cusack reacts to Antrim's surprise win over Clare on Allianz League Sunday
— RTÉ GAA (@RTEgaa) May 9, 2021
Shane Dowling on Antrim.
Óg Cusack’s Sunday Game colleague, former Limerick hurler Shane Dowling, was more optimistic that Antrim could kick on from their performance over the weekend and start competing with the top-tier hurling counties later this summer.
“We watched them very closely today and the way they played the ball, the diagonal ball, runners off the shoulder, they were really good,” Dowling said.
“If Antrim go on to lose games by seven, eight or nine points, that would be considered a success. They are a really, really well-coached side.
“Dónal Óg is right. There was a big difference last year. I was at the games but they have to start somewhere. I played against Loughgiel Shamrocks and Cushendall and they are as good a hurling people that you would find anywhere in the country.
“I would love to see them push on, and on the evidence of today they might just do that.”
Dónal Óg Cusack on Antrim in December.
Back in December, after Antrim won the Joe McDonagh Cup to secure promotion back into the Liam MacCarthy for 2021, Óg Cusack compared Antrim to a boxer going up in weight and expected them to suffer a lot of heavy defeats on their return to hurling’s premier competition.
“That performance today (Joe McDonagh final) would suggest that they are going to struggle next year,” Óg Cusack said.
“It almost reminded me of a boxer going up a division and just not having the weight to match the ambition.
“They have the population, they have the passion for hurling. Hopefully they will benefit from their time up there.
“But, I would worry that they are going to suffer a lot of beatings based on that performance today.”