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Watson switches attention to securing success for Saffrons

WITH one ambition fulfilled after Loughgiel Shamrocks' All-Ireland club title win, Liam Watson is keen for more success as Antrim kick-off their Leinster hurling championship campaign against Westmeath tonight.

Antrim travel to Mullingar to start their fourth such campaign that so far has yielded just one win -- last year's success over Laois. However, after Loughgiel secured their second club title, Watson believes anything is now possible. "I saw Ballyhale and Portumna playing there a couple of years ago in the club final and I was thinking that if my club was playing there, we'd be stuffed -- you really only ever dream of those kind of things," he reflects.

"But the way we were playing in league and in challenges, we knew we had a chance. We played Dublin in a challenge and Anthony Daly said to us after that if there was ever a team going to win an All-Ireland, it would be us.

"And they had a brave team out, maybe eight or nine of their first team and we only lost by four points. He thought we were well prepared. We went into the Na Piarsaigh match confident, we knew we had the hard work done and it showed in the performance that we were in good shape. And that win lifted us and we grew and grew in confidence."

Watson hit a staggering 0-16 in the club semi-final and 3-7 on St Patrick's Day as Loughgiel upset the odds and after those virtuoso displays, he agreed to throw his lot back in with Antrim for the 2012 campaign -- even though he was a little apprehensive.

"When you're on that high from the club and you get the phone call from Jerry (Wallace) to go back in, it's a bit of a reality check. It was hard to get motivated to head up for slogging around a field. But I wanted to play, it's obvious that if you want to play at the top table against the best teams, that's what you have to do," he explains.

Wallace has been juggling his personnel this term. Antrim pulled out of the Walsh Cup because of the strain the absence of the Loughgiel contingent had on their resources, but still managed a respectable league campaign. And with a full compliment to pick from, Watson is hoping for a long summer that starts with a win in Mullingar.

"I haven't played against them in a few years, but they are putting in a lot of back-up. Antrim have played them twice in recent years and there has never been much in it," he says.

"If Antrim had to win against Limerick in the league, we could have been in the shake-up for Division 1. It wasn't all bad. Jerry just came in and had a short space of time to try things out and try new people and things are going well for us.

"A couple of years ago, we beat Dublin in the championship and they went on to win the league last year and were relegated this year, so it just goes to show you that there are ups and downs in it. We're trying to get back up to where we want to be, it's won't be easy, but things are going well at minute."

Irish Independent