Belfast Telegraph

Ulster hurler detained at US airport

By Martin Breheny

Antrim hurler Liam Watson was detained for three hours at San Francisco Airport and threatened with expulsion from the US after arriving with the GAA hurling All Stars early yesterday morning.

Watson had a valid tourist visa but US Immigration officials thought he had arrived for work, arising from a mix-up from a previous visit to America in 2007.

"It showed on my passport that I needed a working visa because I was turned away in Shannon in 2007," explained the Antrim forward.

"I told them I wasn't aware of that and was only coming in for a week to play hurling but they kept saying I would have to go home straight away. They thought I was out looking for work."

His girlfriend Maighread Nic Oitir had gone through immigration and couldn't return to join him when he was taken to a holding room as GAA and tour officials worked on his behalf.

Watson continued to plead his case, insisting that he would only be in San Francisco until next Tuesday and after a three-hour wait was told that he was being given a special 10-day dispensation to stay in the US.

"They seemed to think I was being paid to play hurling but I explained what type of sport it was and in the end an officer came in and asked, 'Is this man not away with the others yet?'

"I think they agreed to let me out on a 10-day parole. If I stayed any longer than that, they could arrest me."

The All Stars will play an exhibition in San Francisco on Sunday.

Belfast Telegraph

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