Thursday 18 January 2018

Gleeson braced for surprises in third instalment of epic trilogy

Austin Gleeson. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Austin Gleeson. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

He expects Davy Fitzgerald and Clare to pull rabbits from a variety of hats during Sunday's Munster semi-final, but Austin Gleeson believes that Waterford also have plenty up their sleeve.

The Mount Sion maestro says the disappointment of losing their League title is parked some four weeks later as they face their third meeting with the Banner in quick succession.

Familiarity may breed contempt but Championship is a totally different animal and Gleeson (right) is well aware that Davy Fitz will have held some of his tactical cards for the big one.

"A couple of lads know Davy and he always has a different plan. We don't know what he's going to do. He could throw anything at us, we just have to be ready," he says.


"They are going to have something in the locker because they have a couple of lads to come back in from injury.

"Whatever happens with them, we have to apply our game, but we know it's a massive task whatever way they go about it."

After "getting to grips" with each other in the drawn final, the replay took on a life of its own and a classic unfolded despite "the same tactics being applied". Gleeson is expecting more of the same.

But he also acknowledges that the Déise attack could be an entirely different prospect this time with key attackers Maurice Shanahan, Pauric Mahony and Stephen Bennett in contention.

"It's a headache for the management," he says. "I wouldn't like to be in their position but hopefully everyone is getting back fit and we have no injury concerns."

With fellow 20-year-old Patrick Curran announcing his arrival on the senior stage, the Deise attack looks far more potent than 12 months ago. Having watched his progress growing up, Gleeson never doubted Curran's "natural" class.

"Anyone who grew up with Waterford knew Patrick was going to make it. In the minor he got 1-7 in the All-Ireland final (2013) and that lay down a marker that he'd make it up," he says.

"He came into the panel late because of college exams last year but he ended up gradually getting into the team. Look where it's after taking him, he's been a great player for us this year and hopefully keeps going that way."

The WIT student felt physically out of his depth against Kilkenny in last year's All-Ireland semi-final but feels Waterford have progressed massively over the winter, which has allowed their much-debated 'system' to evolve.

"We've been in the gym a bit more this year, that's after hitting a lot of the lads. We're fit enough like but we're trying to get fit enough that we can get up and down all day," he explains.

"We still have things to learn and mistakes to cut out. We've a long way to go but we're working on it and seeing where it goes. We are only kind of getting to grips with it properly and trying to develop more and get used to it.

"Trying to get the right players in the right positions. If this year doesn't work out, we can always regroup and get the things we done wrong this year out of the way and if all comes to all, we'll go again at it next year."

It's just over two years since Gleeson burst onto the scene with a wonder-goal against Cork on his Championship debut, and his star has continued to rise.

Comparisons are regularly made with Déíse legend Ken McGrath for his craft and versatility, in defence, midfield or attack, and he has absolutely no issue with where he is stationed.

"Wherever the lads want me to play, I'm going to play. I actually don't know where I want to play myself, so wherever they think they'll get more use out of me, that's where I'll play. I don't really care to be honest," he says.

Perhaps Gleeson's positioning could be the biggest surprise of all come Sunday afternoon.

Austin Gleeson was speaking at the announcement of Centra's sponsorship extension of the hurling championship.

Irish Independent

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