by John McIlwaine
Lory Meagher Cup final
Croke Park has always been a special place for Liam Watson.
His display at GAA headquarters on St Patrick’s Day 2012 for Loughgiel Shamrocks earned him a place in the record books with his astonishing total of three goals and seven points as he steered the Shamrocks towards their second All Ireland club title. Many great hurlers have represented their clubs in the Paddy’s Day decider, men like Joe Canning, Eoin Larkin, TJ Reid and the greatest of them all Henry Shefflin, but none of them could match that total.
He also had great days there in the Antrim colours. On his first visit he created no end of problems for the Tipperary defence in the 2002 quarter-final as Dinny Cahill’s team pushed the Premier County hard for long periods, before fading in the final quarter, and he scored what should have been a brilliant goal against Wexford there the following year, only to see the perfectly good score incorrectly ruled out. It was to be a costly mistake by the officials as Antrim lost out by three points in the end.
His 2010 display against Cork, when he scored six points from play against the rampant Munster men, is legendry and weeks earlier he played a big part as the Saffrons came from behind to beat a highly fancied Dublin side the All Ireland qualifiers.
On Saturday he will be back on the hallowed turf once more, not in the red of Loughgiel, or the Saffron of Antrim, but in the white of Warwickshire as they take on Leitrim in the Lory Maher final. Early this year with work hard to come by at home Watson decided to seek pastures new in Coventry where he met former Gort na Mona man Tony Joyce. Joyce has been involved in Warwickshire GAA for a number of years and went out of his way to get Watson’s signature on the dotted line. Watson said “I have been troubled with injuries for the last year or two and was thinking seriously about give the game up and just do a bit of coaching. However this has given me a new lease of life and the challenge has renewed my interest in the game.”
After leading his team to the league final they were unlucky to lose out to Longford, whom they had beaten in the league proper. After that disappointment the main goal was the Lory Meagher Cup and after a tough qualifying section they have won their way through to meet Leitrim in the decider. They have already beaten the Connaught men in the league and in the round robin section of the Lory Meagher, so they will start as favourites but both games were close and it is far from a foregone conclusion. Much could depend on the key men, and there is no more key than Liam Watson. He thought his days of playing in Croke Park were over but he is itching to get back on the big stage for another run. Let’s hope he can sparkle again on the big occasion and that he can add another medal to his well-stocked collection.