Friday 9 December 2016

Premier's 'keeper of the flame' ready for the next big test

Jackie Cahill

Published 15/08/2015 | 02:30

'Gleeson had a rocky start, but as the year progressed, he grew in confidence and produced a puck-out display in last August's All-Ireland semi-final victory over Cork that drew lavish praise from former Rebel goalkeeper Donal Óg Cusack'
'Gleeson had a rocky start, but as the year progressed, he grew in confidence and produced a puck-out display in last August's All-Ireland semi-final victory over Cork that drew lavish praise from former Rebel goalkeeper Donal Óg Cusack'

He had to wait for his chance, but when it finally arrived, Darren Gleeson grabbed it with both hands.

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For so long on the outside looking in, Portroe clubman Gleeson took over as Tipperary's first-choice goalkeeper in 2014 following the retirement of Brendan Cummins and finished the season as a deserved All-star recipient.

Gleeson had a rocky start, but as the year progressed, he grew in confidence and produced a puck-out display in last August's All-Ireland semi-final victory over Cork that drew lavish praise from former Rebel goalkeeper Donal Óg Cusack.

It's such a pivotal position in the modern game and 34-year-old Gleeson understands the importance of puck-outs. A goalkeeper might have the ball in his hand with essentially a 'free shot' on maybe 40 occasions.

Taking the Galway-Cork quarter-final as an isolated game, Galway scored 2-28 and registered 23 wides.

That meant that Cork's goalkeeper Anthony Nash stood over 53 puck-outs and that's not taking into account efforts that dropped short or deliveries passed back to him by defenders.

Gleeson noted: "I read an article about that in football last week, where Dublin's attacks start with (Stephen) Cluxton, setting up a 70 per cent chance of scoring with successful kick-outs.

"Does it come across into hurling? I'd have to put more emphasis, I suppose, on guys winning breaks more than puck-outs.

"There's a lot more breaking balls in a match than puck-outs. You might have 80 or 90 breaking balls, against maybe 50 puck-outs.

"So, there's more of an emphasis on that.

"It's just a trend that when you have a sweeper, you've more room to hit short ball and people are more conscious of successful percentages.

"So, I'd be more inclined to analyse the success rate in a different area to puck-outs," he insisted.

Gleeson may have endured a tricky 2014 league campaign, but that experience helped to shape a better, mentally strong goalkeeper.

He reflected: "Levels are relative, you might feel you've been at different levels at different stages, there's always peaks and troughs.

"I'd say enjoyment is really the thing, when you can switch off when you come into training.

"Like Noel (McGrath), being able to come in and have a few pucks - it helps you switch off from what's going on elsewhere.

"When you come in after work or from family, you can just switch off and enjoy what you're doing.

"It's like Eamon (O'Shea) says, we're coming here to enjoy ourselves - to be successful, but definitely to enjoy ourselves too."

And while Gleeson is now the 'keeper of the Tipperary flame, he's not prepared to rest on his laurels.

He added: "People say you're proven, but I have to prove myself to the management and the other 34 or 35 players that I train with.

"I'd never sit comfortable going into a match, because there's always tremendous pressure coming through from the goalie behind you in the panel.

"I would have thought I was always doing that to Brendan previously - and I know that Darragh (Egan) and Paul (Maher) and Brian (Hogan) are doing that to me all year. I'm very conscious of that."

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