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Saffrons return on hold, admits Watson

By Declan Bogue

Former All-Star nominee Liam Watson has ruled out any return to the Antrim hurling panel for the foreseeable future.

The talented Loughgiel Shamrocks forward, scorer of 3-7 in the 2012 All-Ireland club final, has broken his silence on his continued exile from the county team.

"Look, I'm not ruling out going back to Antrim, but as it hasn't happened by now I can't see it happening under the current manager anyway. I would love for us to get our act together as a county but I can't see it happening either," he said

Watson's comments are included in a new book documenting the last few exciting years of hurling, entitled 'Fields of Fire' and written by Sunday Independent journalist Damian Lawlor. It was published this week and Watson's feelings towards the impasse would surprise the wider hurling community, as he is rated one of the best forwards in the country.

He went on to explain why he feels Antrim hurling will continue to rage against a glass ceiling.

"We don't invest in the underage system properly," he argued.

"I feel the footballers get preferential treatment from the county board and we are going around throwing millions of pounds at a stadium which will become just another Ulster football venue.

"Some of that money should be used to get former hurlers into the coaching set-up but there is not enough respect for hurling here."

When Kevin Ryan took over as Antrim hurling manager, he expressed surprise that not every player seemed hell-bent on getting a place on his initial panel.

For a veteran like Watson, he was just after a crushing replay defeat to St Thomas' of Galway in February 2013, after spending the previous three years solid on the trail of the All-Ireland club title.

Ryan's approach to Watson to return to the panel probably came at a bad time, and the commitment required was too much for the 30-year-old joiner, who said: "I was asked to commit to training and it was turning out to be six days a week and I couldn't sign up for that. I am 30, I train very hard with my club and I have to look after myself.

"I asked Kevin Ryan for leeway and he gave me none. I was told the panel was closed and I would have to wait for someone to drop off or get injured. I'm still waiting. Players left and were brought in.

"But they obviously don't want me, some of the team don't want me either and the bottom line is that I have far less headaches just playing for my club."

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