By John McIlwaine
Liam Watson wrote his name in the record books at Croke Park on Saturday as Loughgiel Shamrocks bridged a 29-year gap to regain the AIB All Ireland club title with a magnificent win over Offaly and Leinster champions Coolderry.
Watson became the highest scorer in a final in the history of the competition when he grabbed 3 goals and 7 points of his team’s 4-13 total. His hat-trick of goals came in a fourteen minute spell of brilliance during the opening half.
The first came when he swept the ball to the net after Coolderry goalkeeper Stephen Corcoran could only parry a Shay Casey shot in the seventeenth minute, while on twenty-six minutes he fired in an absolute rocket from a twenty-metre free after he had been fouled by Coolderry full-back Trevor Corcoran.
Watson completed the hat-trick on twenty-nine minutes when he controlled a brilliant delivery from Eddie McCloskey and steered it past the advancing Corcoran to put his side in total command.
When you consider the number of great players who have graced the Croke Park stage on St Patrick’s Day, men like Joe Canning, Henry Shefflin, Eoin Larkin, Liam Fennelly, John Fenton and Ray Cummins, you can begin to realise just what an achievement it really is.
While reflecting on his phenomenal performance after the match, Watson joked: “It’s just another day at the office. It’s not bad for an old man like me.”
But turning to a more serious note to comment on the magnitude of Loughgiel’s All-Ireland win, he added: “It was all about the team today and it was the same in the semi-final. The team’s superb.
“Any team from Ulster never gets given a chance but we were quietly confident coming into the game in our own performance and how things went and it’s great to prove our critics wrong.
“In the semi-final we proved them wrong and now in the final proved them all wrong again. Unbelieveable.”