Loughgiel Shamrocks star Liam Watson hit out at critics who’ve suggested he and his Antrim clubmates beat a sub-par Coolderry side in last weekend’s All-Ireland Club hurling final.
Watson hit an incredible 3-7 over the hour in a stunning individual performance, but he was keen to pay tribute to his colleagues’ display on St Patrick’s Day.
“We’ve heard that already, that Coolderry weren’t a good team,” said Watson.
“But I believe Donal O’Grady said in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day that it was the best [hurling] club final in 40 years. That shows that Coolderry were a good team.
“But our defenders didn’t let them play, you have to give our defence huge credit for what they did.
“We had huge respect for Coolderry, they’re a fine team, but we just concentrated on ourselves.”
Watson’s three fine goals were the main talking point — was it his first hat-trick in the club colours? “I don’t know.! But definitely scoring three goals in Croke Park was special. You dream of things like that, you look up to the likes of Henry Shefflin and DJ Carey, and then to get to do that yourself. It’s something you’ll always remember.”
Their homecoming was unforgettable and Watson hopes his younger club-mates will provide other memories in years to come.
“It was something else — I’ve never seen as many people there to greet us.
“They must have come from all over Ireland to welcome us home to Loughgiel. It was unbelievable. We’ve plenty of younger players involved but regarding the younger kids in the club, they’ll have to go and make their own history the way we made it, but hopefully they can do that — and if they do so, then they’ll forget about us, which would be good.”
Watson stressed his belief in his team-mates: “I always believed our players were good enough to win an Ulster championship, but I never believed we’d end up playing together in Croke Park — I never thought we could achieve what we did, but the way everyone played, the contribution they made, it was unbelievable.”
Hurling in the northern county will get a boost from the Loughgiel victory, though Watson’s thoughts are still with his club — it’ll be a couple of weeks yet before he dons the Antrim jersey again.
“Winning last weekend has raised the profile of the game in the county but at the same time this isn’t about Antrim, this is about Loughgiel — all the hard work done in the club produced the goods on St Patrick’s Day, so I don’t think we should be talking about Antrim so much as Loughgiel.
“We won’t be back [with Antrim] next week. It’ll be a couple or three weeks before we’re back. The celebrations are still going on at the minute.”
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