LIAM WATSON SAVES THE DAY

LOUGHGIEL Shamrocks’ sharp-shooter Liam Watson saved the day for the All-Ireland club hurling champions by blasting in a last gasp goal to set up a semi-final replay this weekend.

Watson revealed his plan was to get a good strike on the ball and to hit it well ... and he certainly did to level the pulsating Parnell Park encounter at 28 points apiece.

Watson, not for the first time, was Loughgiel Shamrocks’ hero against St. Thomas on Saturday in their All-Ireland club semi-final, with his goal from a 20m free with the last puck of the game rescuing a draw for his side.

Afterwards he explained that he simply had to focus on his strike.

“I just kept saying to myself ‘hit it well and it will go in’. Thankfully it did,” said Watson. “Things had not gone that well for me but when you get chances like that you have to take them.”

St Thomas’ manager John Burke said the game was a great experience for his side, who were playing in an All-Ireland semi-final for the first time in their history.

“It is great to have another shot at it. They are the All-Ireland champions and you can see why. They were gone and they came back into it,” he said.

“It was a big learning day for us, it was our first ever game outside Galway and it was a good experience for a young side. It is great to have another day out of it. It was heart-stopping stuff.”

The replay is back at Parnell Park in Dublin this Saturday at 5.45pm and the winners will meet Kilcormac-Killoughey in the St Patrick’s Day decider at Croke Park. Again, the game is on TG4.

Last Saturday, All-Star forward Liam Watson grabbed a sensational equalising goal with the last puck of the game to secure the replay after the Connacht Champions had taken control of the contest with an extra-time goal of their own.

The sides went toe-to-toe for the full 100 minutes in a breathless encounter, with each team holding the lead on multiple occasions over the course of the game and neither leading by more than a goal at any stage.

It was St Thomas’ who started brightest, rattling off three unanswered scores to take an early lead, but Loughgiel fought back and a Shay Casey goal helped them to a two-point lead at the interval.

Once again though, it was the Galway men who were quicker out of the blocks from the restart, and despite Benny McCarry netting for the Shamrocks’ second three-pointer, Connor Cooney’s late free took the game to extra time.

St Thomas’ took control in the first period of extra time with Gerry Murray’s goal giving them a three point lead, and two further scores from the hugely impressive Cooney - who finished with a personal tally of 0-12 - helped his side to a three point lead with seconds left to play.

Watson was denied a goal in the dying moments when his effort was deflected over the bar, but the Shamrocks Talisman made no mistake with a fiercely-struck 21-yard free right at the death which beat no less than nine St Thomas’ players on its way into the net.

That goal heralded the final whistle to bring the curtain down on what was a magnificent game, and ensured that the sides will meet again to decide who goes on to face Kilcormac-Killoughey of Offaly in the decider on St Patrick’s Day.