A former U21 and senior football panellist with Meath, 56-year-old Gleeson is the man who has presided over High School’s march to an historic Corn Uí Mhuirí final against St Brendan’s, Killarney (Saturday, Mallow, 2pm).
St Brendan’s are 20-times champions while the High School are back in the showpiece decider for the first time since their only title win way back in 1928. Gleeson knows these stats off the top of his head and there’s more, much more, where they came from.
He’s been working at the High School since 1981 and after linking up with the local Clonmel Commercials club as a player, Gleeson won Tipperary SFC medals in 1986, 1989, and 1990.
In 1994, he began to get involved in the coaching of school teams and remembers a Munster senior B semi-final loss to St Finbarr’s, Farranferris, by just two points.
He recalls two-time Allstar Declan Browne coming on as a sub in that game, at 15 years of age, and the progression continued with a B final appearance in 1999.
Four years later, they won it, lost another final in 2007 but were champions again in 2010, the year they also won the All-Ireland B title.
Clonmel High School has been very much on the rise, in parallel with general Tipperary football fortunes, and Gleeson can list off a number of well-known players who have done their bit.
Brothers Bill Maher and Paul Maher are both former High School students, for instance, along with Clonmel Commercials pair Michael Quinlivan and Aldo Matassa, who have both played senior football for Tipp in recent years.
Jason Lonergan, Luke Moore, Danny Madigan, Donal Lynch, Ian Barnes, Jake McDonald and the Harney brothers John and Kevin went to the High School— all of them won Munster Club medals with Commercials last year.
It’s one hell of a football nursery and Gleeson recalls just one missing ingredient when he first arrived — belief.
He recalls: “When I came here first and saw young fellas of 12 and 13 years of age and saw the levels of skill they had, I couldn’t understand why they weren’t winning.
“The job was to make them believe they were as good as everyone else. Go back over the last few years and lads have come through from development squads and are used to playing the Corks and Kerrys. They hold no fear for them now.
“We came out of B and not many schools can do that. We’re in a very good position with a strong football area here.
“The margins at this level are very fine but we know we’re up against it.
“St Brendan’s are going for a 21st Corn Uí Mhuirí and the thinking down there is these guys have come through for five years and haven’t won it.
“Their aim is that they won’t go out without winning one. At this level, you’re nearly playing a Kerry minor team – considering the number of minors from last year and the number of present minors for the year going forward. But the pressure is off us and if we can perform, we’re in with a big chance.”