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Watson’s given new lease of life with Saffrons

When Antrim launch their National Hurling League Division Two itinerary tomorrow by renewing acquaintance with Carlow for the second time within a week, Liam Watson will be a key figure in their attack.

The enigmatic Loughguile clubman, who found himself cast into the shadows while Dominic McKinley and Terence McNaughton were in charge, has now rediscovered his zest for inter-county action even though he is continuing to fulfil his commitments with Donegal Celtic.

Hailed as a special hurling talent in his formative years, Watson tended to flit in and out of the Antrim squad but last Sunday he made a surprise re-appearance against Carlow at Dr Cullen Park in the Walsh Shield scoring seven points, five from frees, as the Saffrons went under by 2-14 to 1-15.

Watson’s return to the fold is a timely boost for manager Dinny Cahill as he focuses on his opening National League tie at Casement Park in what is his second term in charge. Indeed, Cahill’s men will now bid to reclaim the county’s sporting spotlight from Liam Bradley’s footballers who have stolen the hurlers’ thunder over the course of the past year.

In underlining his accuracy against Carlow, who won the Christy Ring Cup last year, last weekend Watson laid down a marker for the much more important match between the sides tomorrow and in the process offered Cahill a ration of encouragement for the league campaign.

“There are a lot of good hurlers in Antrim and it is my job to get the best out of them,” says the Tipperary man whose management backup team includes Bob Thornhill, Gerry Wallace and Gregory O’Kane. “Division Two promises to be very tough and we have to be ready for the challenge. We have been paying particular attention to conditioning as we feel this is an important facet of our preparations.”

With long-term hip injury victim Paul Shiels regaining his best form alongside Watson, the Antrim attack can carry a greater threat tomorrow assuming that Brendan Herron, who has turned his back on football for the moment, can impose himself at midfield.

Belfast Telegraph

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