Sunday 20 August 2017

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Gleeson: “Whether it’s Tipperary or Cork, it’s a massive game and we are looking forward to
that.” Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Gleeson: “Whether it’s Tipperary or Cork, it’s a massive game and we are looking forward to that.” Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Come what may tomorrow, Austin Gleeson and Waterford won't be getting too carried away.

Win against Clare in Ennis and they'll be in a league quarter-final. Lose and they'll be battling for their Division 1A status. Either way, they'll be out again the following week and the process will continue.

Gleeson isn't shying away from where his side's horizons are this year and admits that time has changed their perspective. Their eyes are fixed on Championship and September.

"A year or two ago it would have been more emphasised that it is all or nothing on Sunday but the players are there and they have been through it all," he reflected.

"The majority of players have won a league and been relegated and promoted so we'll take it game by game and win or lose Sunday we are out next weekend

"It is important I suppose to get as close to championship playing competitive games - it obviously does help.

"But there's not much emphasis on the league in ways this year from our point of view. We are after getting within a puck of a ball of reaching an All-Ireland final so that's one of our mains aims. But obviously June 18 is what we are looking forward to.

"Whether it's Tipperary or Cork, it's a massive game and we are looking forward to that."

For a couple of seasons now, Déise boss Derek McGrath has pleaded for patience with his young side but they way they cruised to the All-Ireland U-21 title did little to quell the enthusiasm in the county.

Gleeson and Co were a class apart in that grade as they secured a first U-21 title since 1992. But, if anything, it only served to heighten the expectation around the senior team.

"It was probably (big) that night and the following night with the homecoming. Then it was like we'd just won another match. But it was 1992 since we'd won the All-Ireland. After that then, it was as if nothing happened. It was crazy.

"Because the seniors were so close and everyone wants the seniors to go so well.

"It was weird as players knowing that we're after achieving something huge and yet the players on the senior panel still having the hurt not being here (in Croke Park) the first Sunday in September which we could possibly have been."

That U-21 win helped heal the wounds of the All-Ireland semi-final replay defeat to Kilkenny.

The reigning Hurler of the Year admits the post-mortem stung but insists it's only what happens within the group that is taken on board.

"The first people to say to you after the two games that they're disappointed are your family - 'Why is this going… why is that happening.'

"In the back of your head you're kinda going, 'Will you leave me alone. I just want to get away from it.' And Obviously you can't.

"They'd be saying, 'Why was he there? Why did you do this? Why did you do that?'

"In the back of your head you're always saying, 'shut up'. You don't care what they're saying. You know what the plan is and you're sticking by the plan. And it's not going to come overnight.

"That's the main thing in Waterford, you have to make conversation with people but you have always have to shut up shop...

"It's Waterford people being passionate more so than anything.

"It would be worse if they weren't passionate and they were saying 'ye'll be okay'. It shows the hunger and the want they have for us to succeed, in the way they approach things.

"We just have to stick to the process. Try not get caught up with the outside world. As Derek always says, the outside world doesn't know exactly what's going on inside the circle that we have."

Gleeson expects his side to improve. Having admitted to a gap in physicality between them and Kilkenny a couple of seasons ago, he believes that has changed.

"Looking around the dressing room the last few months you could see lads just physically bulk out, broader, their chest and their back and it does have a massive difference, even playing challenge games in training like.

"Maybe last year you could hit a fella and you wouldn't really feel an impact.

"This year you are hitting, no matter who it is, and you are feeling it because everyone is after really buying into it the gym and physical training this year.

"It's what we needed I suppose instead of kind of getting bullied off different teams, to step up and stand up to the teams more."

Nothing more to do than to trust the plan, and hope it brings the to September.

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