It wasn’t the dream start to Liam Watson’s return to the Antrim hurling fold as the Saffrons, under manager PJ O’Mullan, were edged out 3-17 to 1-19 by Laois in the Walsh Cup.
Watson made his first Antrim start since 2012 as the Loughgiel Shamrocks star, an All-Ireland winner in 2012 and an Allstar nominee in 2010, was named at full-forward in new manager PJ O’Mullan’s first squad along with seven of his Loughgiel team mates.
Unfortunately it didn’t go the Saffrons way as goals from Tadhg Dowling and PJ Scully helped Laois lead 2-11 to 0-12 at half-time at Heywood Community School.
A Conor Johnston goal cut Laois’s lead to one but a Ben Conroy three-pointer helped the home side clinch victory.
Johnston hit 1-4 for the Saffrons with Niall McKenna and Kevin McKernan also among the Antrim scorers.
Watson’s absence from the county team in recent years has always been a major talking point, however, O’Mullan, who guided the Shamrocks to the All-Ireland title in 2012 believes Liam, who, although he is now over 30, remains one of the best players in the county.
“When I sat down and looked at who the best players were in the county, Liam Watson was one of them,” said PJ O’Mullan.
“Maybe he has a point to prove to himself, I don’t know. But I think Antrim lost three great years of Liam Watson’s career because he was knocking out big, big scores for Loughgiel.
“I think other players can learn from Liam Watson. He’s a leader, he’s a good trainer. He has his flaws, but he’s not the only player with flaws. But you put him in your team.”