Loughgiel boss PJ O’Mullan has jumped to the defence of Liam Watson, who blames himself for the defending champions not winning last week’s All-Ireland club hurling semi-final.
Watson scored 1-7 in a high-scoring draw with Galway champions St Thomas’ in Parnell Park last Saturday, and netted a dramatic equaliser in the last minute of extra-time to set up a replay in Clones today.
However, the scorer-in-chief was hugely critical of his own performance and has vowed to produce his best in the replay.
“Liam was off the boil with his frees and his shooting but he has dug us out of a lot of holes in the past,” O’Mullan admitted.
“He has been too good too often for us to start criticising him now. He has a chance to rectify it now, and as team, we feel we didn’t perform as well as we know we can.
“We hope that on Saturday we will get a response from all the players.”
O’Mullan insists the team did not underestimate the first-time Galway champions last week and he says they will be keeping close tabs on St Thomas’ main threat Conor Cooney, who scored 0-12, including a fine injury-time point to take the game to extra-time.
“We can only go on what we seen in training and we felt they were ready,” said O’Mullan. “In hindsight, the weekend in Offaly where we got no [challenge] games because of the weather didn’t help us.
“But we got 80 minutes last week so there are no excuses. They are a good team with plenty of players who have minor and U21 All-Irelands and they’ve three or four boys on the Galway squad so we knew they were a good team. We had our homework done.
“Everyone is talking about how well they played but going into injury-time, we were leading.
“He [Cooney] had a super game. People are saying, ‘can he do it again?’ but of course he can. If he can do it once, he can do it again.
“He got a lot of space and room but if you concentrate on one player, you forget about the rest, and we won’t be doing that.”
Underdogs usually only get one crack at pulling off an upset and O’Mullan says his All-Ireland champions are relieved to still have an opportunity to retain their title.
“The quick turnaround is something we’re happy about and the players are glad they’re getting a second chance,” he added.
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