Waterford star Austin Gleeson will wear ear protection against Tipperary in tomorrow evening's Bord Gáis Energy Munster U21 hurling final after sustaining an horrific injury during Sunday’s senior victory over Wexford.
A chunk of Gleeson’s left ear was left hanging off during the closing stages of the All-Ireland senior hurling quarter-final clash in Thurles.
Gleeson was temporarily replaced by Conor Gleeson between the 64th and 69th minutes and was sporting a bandage over his ear yesterday when he attended a pre Munster final promotional event in Carrick-on-Suir.
Gleeson can’t recall the incident that split his ear but he revealed: “I felt my ear and felt a bit of blood on my hand. I was like: 'oh no, here we go again. I’ll have to go off for a blood substitute'.
“I thought it was only a little scratch but the physio came on and told me to put pressure on it.
“I put pressure on, took it off and then he put a spray and Vaseline on it to try and stop the bleeding.
“I had to go off the field and he told me after the game that when I took the pressure off it, there was a big chunk of it hanging.
“He didn’t want to tell me that on the field, he left it go.”
Gleeson is currently sourcing protective headgear to get him through tomorrow’s Walsh Park clash and he explained: “I’m not 100% sure yet. “I’ll have to get some protection for it – a new fashion statement!
“I think one of the lads in the club wasn’t far off the same kind of thing and had to wear something like an ear muff.”
Steri strips and glue are currently holding Gleeson’s ear together and he admits that sleep was hard to come by on Sunday evening.
“I went home and watched The Sunday Game, I tried to sleep but it didn’t really work out too well.
“Any time I turned over, it was shooting up. I took two paracetamol.
“The pain wasn’t too bad – it was any time I turned, I flicked off something and it would start throbbing and feel like a heartbeat in my ear.”
But there’s no danger of Gleeson missing out on the Munster U21 showpiece – as Waterford aim to win the competition for the first time since 1994.
Remarkably, it’s the first final clash between Tipperary and Waterford since the competition's debut year back in 1964 and Gleeson, who recently started a new job with Bank of Ireland, is relishing the prospect.
He’s carrying renewed confidence levels into the game following Sunday’s victory over Wexford – a win that helped to erase some of the bitter memories of Waterford’s 21-point hammering against Tipperary in the Munster senior decider.
And Gleeson reflected: “We all underperformed but there were certain lads that it really hit.
“You could sense the tension in the dressing room before the (Wexford) game, that it was do or die.
“We knew we were right and if we went out and did what the lads told us on the line, we’d get over the line. Thankfully we did.”
He added: “After the Munster final, we stayed in the Radisson Blu in Limerick. “We talked and a lot of us put a lot of emphasis on the U21 being a massive game for us to get back on track basically.”
Three days later, Waterford produced an emphatic second half display to blitz Clare by 3-23 to 1-11.
It was redemption for Gleeson and his senior colleagues Conor Gleeson, Tom Devine, Patrick Curran and the Bennett brothers, Stephen and Shane.
Gleeson added: “We went out then on the Wednesday night and you could see the lads that were playing on the Sunday drove it on and you could sense the hurt from every one of us.
“We unleashed on Clare and it worked out for us. We ended up in the second half turning it on and it might not have happened had (the previous) Sunday gone differently.”
At senior level, Gleeson is relishing another crack at Kilkenny in a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland semi-final, a game that will be played on August 7.
And he said: “Hopefully we learned a lot from last year and the Munster final about how to handle the bigger games. Getting back to Croke Park was massive for us again this year.
“We’re up against the big dogs – going for three-in-a-row – we’re looking forward to it and relishing the chance to dethrone them. We’ll see what happens and hopefully we can.”
The Sunday Game panellists Brendan Cummins and Henry Shefflin expressed the view that Waterford will have to play a more expansive game and use more forwards inside the 45m line to trouble Kilkenny.
Gleeson responded: “I can see where they’re coming from but we totally believe in what the lads are saying.
“I think we had 19 wides yesterday and 21 points. That’s 40 shots at goal, and we had five or six that dropped short so we had the bones of 50 shots at goal.
“I know there was a massive wind and we had 13 wides in the first half – I think I had seven in the game – we just believe in what we’re doing.
“We don’t care if it’s 12-11 and we come out on top. That’s the way we want to play the game and the way Derek (McGrath) and the lads want us to play the game. We believe in them 110% and that’s the way it is.”