Before Christmas, Gleeson said he was ‘glad’ to be rid of the hurler of the year moniker, feeling he didn’t play as well as he would have liked during 2017.
McGrath read his player’s comments but would disagree with them. “You look back on the Championship last year, Austin played not a huge amount of league time. We tried to manage that whole expectation that we knew would come.
“You look back at the championship we played, on June 18 (v Cork) we were all very disappointed with how we did that day, management included. I think he got six points from play against Offaly, scored five points from play against Kilkenny, scored five points from play against Wexford, scored 1-3 against Cork and he would think himself that he underperformed in the final.
“I think a colder analysis from Austin himself, a more objective analysis would show you that he had a reasonably good year, getting all those scores from play. I don’t think he should put himself under any pressure because we’re certainly not. All we’re looking for is for him to be as workmanlike as he has been and to do his absolute best and we’ll be happy with that.”
McGrath senses the scheduling of the league combined with the restructuring of the provincial championships will “change the narrative” of the league from cut-throat to something less. That’s not to say Waterford will be taking a laissez-faire approach to the competition.
“I don’t think Waterford are a team that can ever be at a stage where they can swan into Walsh Park on Sunday or Sunday week and think ‘oh we were in an All-Ireland final we can take our time coming back with a clear focus on the championship.’
“I don’t think we can ever swan in as a team. I don’t think we can ever not have that ordinariness of approach because when we do, not that we’re not good enough, but I don’t think it suits us. I think that’s important to bear in mind. Getting the balance between some confidence being picked from being in an All-Ireland final and still remaining raw for the league approach is important.
“The narrative will change. I remember being down in Clare last year and being under genuine pressure to get the points in Ennis that would stave off a relegation dogfight. I think I’m over that now.”
McGrath hasn’t ruled out Shane Bennett returning to the panel later in the year. The Ballysaggart forward is taking time out at the moment.
“I met Shane last Monday and I met him the Thursday before.
“We’d be very hopeful that he would come back at some stage. We’re giving him his space to make a decision at some stage,” he added.