Shamrocks boss says hat-trick hero Watson 'as good as Shefflin'
AFTER a famous All-Ireland club SHC victory had been secured, Loughgiel Shamrocks manager PJ O'Mullan walked into the media room under the Cusack Stand, surveyed his audience, cracked a smile and asked: "Any of you boys writing in the programme today?"
It was true. Loughiel had been written off, literally. Not given so much as a single nod of approval from any of the predictions in the match programme but their underdog status stretched much wider than that.
At 3/1 just before the ball was thrown in, this should have been one of those St Patrick's Day finals usually featuring Portumna or Ballyhale Shamrocks when the match as a contest is over by half-time.
And it nearly was -- just not as almost everyone had betted.
"We have a new generation of hurlers in the club and these players were fit to come here today and get the job done and emulate the heroes of 1983," he said.
"We will enjoy this. Any club that can come back after two or three generations and hurl the way we hurled today and not concede a goal was brilliant."
And in Liam Watson, they had a man with goals on the brain and the skill and boldness to take them.
Having scored 0-16 in their All-Ireland semi-final win over Na Piarsaigh, Antrim's most mercurial talent managed an incredible 3-7 (1-5f) in the final.
"He is up there with Henry Shefflin, John Gardiner and Donal Óg Cusack," O'Mullan insisted.
"This man is possessed when he trains. He is a super trainer and a super worker, a good team man and the fact that he put everything he had into the campaign this year means we're getting the fruits of it. Any man that scores 3-7 in an All-Ireland final, what can you say?"
Coolderry manager, Ken Hogan -- looking curiously fitter than when he hurled himself -- was in agreement about Watson's feat and heaped praise on the victors.
"No complaints, that's hurling," he insisted. "You prepare for winning, you prepare for losing and as the manager of a team we have had a great adventure in Coolderry, to win a county championship back to back and then to win a Leinster club championship. It was tremendous and to get to an All-Ireland club final was a dream come true but sport can be cruel and we came unstuck today.
"They have clinical finishers like Watson up front, makes a huge difference. He produced the goods today and you'd have to take your hats off to the Loughgiel today.
"They were deserving All-Ireland champions."