Liam’s unique talents will lift hurling
Loughgiel captain Johnny Campbell believes that the team’s All-Ireland club hurling triumph will provide a massive boost for the sport in the province.
And he is convinced too that sharpshooter Liam Watson, who bagged a colossal 3-23 in the All-Ireland semi-final and final, will become a role model for young players, forwards in particular.
While Watson’s epic haul has propelled him into the headlines, Campbell makes it clear that the man who was formerly on the books of Donegal Celtic and Ballymena United is very much a team player.
“Liam’s scoring exploits have been nothing short of sensational but he is nonetheless very much a team player. He wins possession and creates chances for others as well as being a top-class scorer himself.
“He has been magnificent in helping us to win the All-Ireland crown but the rest of the boys have made a massive contribution as well,” says Campbell whose inspiring leadership helped to underpin Loughgiel’s stunning triumph.
Campbell, who has played for Antrim in the past and whose career at inter-county level may yet be resurrected, insists that hurling will now gain greater credibility in Ulster as a result of his team’s breakthrough after a 30-year wait for the ultimate club accolade.
“I think that there will be a greater awareness of hurling and what it can bring. We worked very hard and we have had to stomach disappointments notably last year when we lost to O’Loughlin Gaels but we persevered and we have got our reward last,” adds 27-year-old Campbell.
Loughgiel manager P J O’Mullan, whose meticulous planning and dedicated approach had much to do with his team’s All-Ireland coup, suggests that the more colourful side of Liam Watson’s character tends to detract on occasions from his skills as a hurler of rare quality.
“The Press get plenty out of him. They see what he is like and they get onto him,” says O’Mullan.
“But I can tell you for sure that he is the best trainer in Ireland.
“I would put him right up there alongside greats like Henry Shefflin, John Gardiner and and Sean Og O hAilpin, that’s how highly I rate him.”
And he is now anxious to see Watson continue to show the same level of commitment to Loughgiel as he has done in recent months.
“The fact that he put so much into our campaign means that we have now benefited from the fruits of this sort of dedication. Any man who scores 3-7 in an All-Ireland final just has to be a special player and we hope that he continues to play like this for us,” smiles O’Mullan.
Even beaten Coolderry manager Ken Hogan has waxed lyrical about Watson’s skills since Saturday’s contest.
“When you have a clinical finisher like Liam Watson in your side you are always going to have a good chance of winning and that’s how it turned out for Loughgiel,” says Hogan.
“He certainly produced it on the biggest club stage of all.”
“Loughgiel are deserving All-Ireland champions and they have the potential to remain a strong hurling force, in my view.”