Saturday 19 August 2017

Physical Cats showed us we need to hit the gym - Gleeson

Waterford hurler Austin Gleeson signs hurleys for players from the An Ghaeltacht GAA Club in Waterford. Over 650 children travelled to Croke Park yesterday for a special day out as part of Centra's Live Well initiative
Waterford hurler Austin Gleeson signs hurleys for players from the An Ghaeltacht GAA Club in Waterford. Over 650 children travelled to Croke Park yesterday for a special day out as part of Centra's Live Well initiative
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

They were one of the stories of the summer. Waterford announced themselves back on hurling's big stage with a new style and no little swagger.

The perception of them has changed. Over the winter, they'll be involved in any conversation surrounding who might raise a gallop against Kilkenny's continuing dominance.

And one of the stars of their emerging side, Austin Gleeson, has seen the mood in the county change.

"It's more upbeat around Waterford whereas 12 months ago everybody's head was kind of down," Gleeson said at another phase of Centra's Live Well initiative.

"Being involved with people, it's now 'will you do anything this year?' and (before) everybody around the town was saying 'you're too young, you're this, you're that'.

Optimistic

"Now everybody is hoping and praying we develop from (this) year for next year and see where it takes us. People are optimistic about Waterford again. The buzz is starting to come back.

"Talking to people on the street, they're saying 'you had a good year, you got bet by the All-Ireland champions in the All-Ireland semi-final'. It's starting to come around again, I hope."

Gleeson admits this year came too soon for the Deise. League success preceded a run to the All-Ireland semi-final, where they were beaten by Kilkenny.

And while reaching the last four represents significant progress, the Mount Sion clubman believes they have a lot of work to do to catch up with Kilkenny.

"Kilkenny were the better team," he said. "It was the physicality of them compared to us was massive. There were times in the game it was boys against men, even around the middle of the field, the hits you were taking, it was unbelievable.

"I remember in the first half Michael Fennelly hit me and it took me two or three minutes to even get over that hit, because he's a big man.

"They were the better team on the day, the goal really killed us because every time we got back to two or three points they were getting two or three points then. The goal was always in between us and they just drove on in the end.

"I know that most of the team are back in the gym already. That day against Kilkenny really showed that we need a lot of work in the gym because they were just massive compared to some of us."

Waterford's style drew plenty of analysis. Deploying a sweeper afforded them stability but in Henry Shefflin's mind, it's a game-plan that can only take you so far.

And Gleeson agrees they will have to come up with something different to continue their upward trend in 2016.

"The sweeper worked for us this year. I'd say it will be something similar but (Waterford manager Derek McGrath) will have something up his sleeve anyway. If we play the way we played against Kilkenny we won't win.

"Tadhg (de Burca) is probably after being our best player all year behind Maurice (Shanahan).

"We know he's capable of marking a man but the way he was playing the sweeping role it worked for us. We just have to wait and see what Derek has up his sleeve for next year.

"The scoring threat is what we have to look at most. The first year I was on the panel, we didn't really do anything, to be honest.

"Then to turn around 12 months later and be League champions, beat in a Munster final and an All-Ireland semi-final against the All-Ireland champions, it was a massive stepping stone for us and we just have to develop on from it again next year and see where it takes us.

"We've more to give, I think, because we're a young team and we've a few young players coming through again from underage."

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport