Dynamic Déise star Gleeson aims to cut down on the 'stupid' stuff
Mount Sion man enjoying his more advanced role as Waterford defend league crown
Published 28/04/2016 | 02:30
Austin Gleeson's propensity for the spectacular has been enhanced over Waterford's Division 1A campaign that has taken them to a second successive league final.
His classy touches were stitched all over their opening-day win against Kilkenny, none of his trio of points against Cork next day out could be described as ordinary while his injury-time winner from a 95-metre free to beat Tipperary ensured a quarter-final spot as quickly as it was mathematically possible to ensure it.
But for all the dynamism Gleeson accepts that there are kinks in his game that he must iron out. His shot-to-score ratio has dipped and even from such long-range positions that has become a concern for him, he acknowledged.
Six wides against Kilkenny the first day, two more against Cork, four wides from sidelines in the league quarter-final, two more against Limerick the last day. He puts forward the charge of "stupidity" himself.
"I know in the last couple of games the only times of stupidity have been the sidelines and I'm after looking at them myself personally and the lads have told me different ways about improving that. It's more about leaving the ball go and not doing stupid stuff again. It's working," he said.
"I'm trying not to have as many off-the-cuff shots but I'm really enjoying trying to learn how to be a full-time team player. If I didn't have a shot in the game and we won it, it wouldn't really bother me. That's the way it's gone now."
He has been one of the most natural strikers of a sideline since he came on the scene two years ago but that touch has deserted him somewhat.
"I suppose it's probably my own fault that they're going that way. I don't practise them as much as I should because when I started to do it, it kind of came naturally to me. It was just like luck.
"But now I expect to put them over every time and I probably put too much pressure on myself.
"Derek (McGrath) is always saying, 'Do them, do them, do them', and even if you're watching a game every time you look over at the management side of the field, Dan (Shanahan) is over beside me to help me with what way to go and how to do it."
The endless quest for perfection may be at the root of the problems, however small, that he has identified. "I suppose before it was more off the cuff, I was hitting them and they just seemed to go over.
"Now I'm trying to have them too perfect and they're just not going right for me. Usually when I hit them they curve almost in a C shape. But whatever is happening now, when I hit them they go up and drop so I just have to look at that in my own way and see what way I can improve."
Where to get the most out of him remains arguably Derek McGrath's most challenging task. Having him adhere to a system too rigidly is like Michaelangelo holding a ladder in the Sistine Chapel but McGrath has loosened the reins to accommodate such a special talent more.
Against Cork, he was placed in a three-man midfield, against Wexford and Tipperary he had spells in the full-forward line and for the most part he is the half-back with the most liberty to press forward when he wants to. The system, he insists, doesn't contain him.
"You'll never stop learning or perfect everything so the way we're looking at it now it's still a work in progress.
"From a personal point of view, I'm really enjoying playing for the system. The lads are saying, 'You have to do this role' but after 10 or 15 minutes in the game once you are settled into the role it's just open freedom and you work off your instinct then.
"Everyone feels the same way. There's nobody feeling trapped inside a box or a system. If something goes wrong on the field, it's the players on the field (who fix it). Derek really leaves a lot of it in our own hands to try and react on the field to the way things are going. If they see something, they will tell us but if we see something we think that we can help them. It's a 50-50 thing."
He admits to liking the more advanced positions he has taken up. "It's less (a case of) looking after a man and more playing my own game instead of trying to watch another player and then dictate how I play off the opposition player.
"Derek looking at me more forward this year but, if all comes to all and I end up in the back-line during championship, I won't have any complaints."
At 6ft 3ins, Gleeson is taller than he looks on the field while his power has also increased since last summer.
"I have probably been in the gym a lot more because last year against Kilkenny it really showed that we needed it.
"Shane Bennett, Patrick Curran, Tadhg De Burca and myself, we are after upping our muscle mass and the gym is after helping a lot. The help of Gary Walsh and Fergal O'Brien has been massively influential for us. That was the main aim during the winter, to get a big pre-season of gym work into us."