'I haven't had that many injuries but three already this year is a bit of a disaster'
Former Hurler of the Year Austin Gleeson aiming to put difficult season behind him
Austin Gleeson is both counting his blessings and cursing his luck.
The Waterford star has had a unwelcome start to the year. The Déise's doomed league campaign that saw them slip out of the top flight was punctuated by injury and setback on a personal level for Gleeson.
A pulled quad hampered him early on in the campaign and now he's battling with a hamstring injury sustained after just 14 minutes of a club game with Mount Sion.
In between, he had the misfortune of an infected cut on his ankle. It's far from ideal for a player who had targeted being exceptionally fit this summer in a bid to recapture his best form.
"That was the aim. The Tipp game I had my right quad (injured), in the Clare game my ankle and missed the Cork game and first time back playing again I done the hamstring.
"I haven't had that many injuries but three already this year is a bit of a disaster. But we'll keep working away in the gym."
The extent of his hamstring injury will be known later this week after a scan but he has caught a small break - Waterford have a bye in the first round of the Munster Championship, meaning he has an extra week to recover, something that could make all the difference as he looks to be fit for their opener away to Clare on May 27.
"We have a bye the first week probably luckily for myself to help me get back in time," said the ambassador for Littlewoods Ireland, who are sponsoring the GAA Go Games that will see more than 4,000 children get the chance to play at Croke Park.
"Then four weeks in a row. Clare, Tipp, Limerick and Cork, that's the travelling we have to do. It will be tough.
"We'll have to be as fit as we ever were and we have the squad now that we hope can go on and qualify."
After a blistering 2016 that saw him named Hurler of the Year, Gleeson was unhappy with his form last summer. And he admits the accolades he had been given the year before weighed heavily.
"It did, to be fair, but it was not pressure coming from other players or management, it was pressure coming from myself, which I was putting on myself.
"I don't know why I was doing it but it was just that I wanted to go out and prove why I was given those awards and it just did not go for me.
"Everything I tried seemed to not come off. There was a couple of moments in games where I was starting to think, 'It is turning now'.
"But then I would fumble a ball or something. I suppose I was trying too hard, but this year is a new year and I am looking forward to it."
His status as Hurler of the Year meant he got some extra attention from opposing teams.
"A small bit, not overly," he replied, when asked if he felt teams were more wary of him after his 2016 displays.
"In certain games I was being man-marked. In the All-Ireland final, Gearóid McInerney, he followed me everywhere I think.
"At one stage we had a sideline on the (Hogan) side of the field and I was on the other side of the field and he literally followed me until I put the ball down on the ground.
"I knew at that stage he was just not going to leave me alone. I think I read in the programme he was 16 stone so it takes a lot to get away from him! So a small bit last year, I suppose, I just have to try to get used to it.
"I was getting it the last few years at club level as well, so it's something you just have to try to do, work your way into the game no matter where you are. If the ball is not coming, just get in and around, get in a hook or a block, just come into the game.
"It's the simple things, you have to get back to the basics. Once you get back to them you'll hopefully get yourself into the game."
However, he reckons he will be better for the experience of having gone through the season. And he believes he'll be better able to work himself into games should things go against him early in the day.
"Definitely, 100pc, you learn from your mistakes. Last year the pressure was on me but this year I am determined to go out and do what I did as a 16-year-old and just enjoy it.
"I am not saying that I was not enjoying myself last year but everything I did wrong I was kicking myself and everything I did right I was thinking I could do better.
"I just want to go back, enjoy it and play hurling as I did in previous years."
"To be honest, I looked back over the winter on a lot of the games last year and you could see that it was something that I was walking around with my head in my boots as if I had no kind of confidence.
"Again, I don't know why it was like that but this year, if I'm getting man-marked, I just need to get into the game.
"It doesn't matter if I don't get a ball for the game, but if I get three or four hooks, that's something I've got to do for the team.
"I'm not putting that pressure on myself, just try to do the simple things and keep that pressure off myself."