Austin Gleeson is backing up his impressive body transformation with performance on the field, says the Waterford star’s former manager Derek McGrath.
A ‘before and after’ Instagram post highlighted the intensive physical work put in by Gleeson during the Covid-19 lockdown, under the guidance of Waterford personal trainer Ian Keohan.
Writing on Instagram, the 2016 Hurler of the Year revealed he had initially struggled with diet and physique during the break from organised training, before turning to Keohan for a plan.
“Not one for a post like this at all, taking me ages to get the courage to put it up but found myself falling into a hole again at the start of the lockdown, binging and neglecting my body and ended up like I did. I knew I needed something to change and fast!
"Went to @i_keohan_coaching and asked him for a diet and program and can safely say it was the best decision I’ve made for myself in a long long time!
"Put my head down and worked hard for a couple of weeks and I can safely say I’ve never felt better in myself and head is in a great place and feel like myself for the first time in years.
"Couldn’t recommend @i_keohan_coaching any higher. Anything I asked he was straight back to me with answers! Thanks a million."
On Sunday, Gleeson contributed eight points as his club Mount Sion overcame Clonea by 1-19 to 1-13 in the Waterford SHC.
And speaking on the Irish Examiner GAA podcast, his former county boss McGrath admired how Gleeson wasn't inhibited by his openness around his body transformation.
“He looks in great shape, first and foremost. Everyone has seen how great a shape he is in. And sometimes it’s hard to follow that up, when you expose yourself in that manner.
“But he looks to be in a great place mentally and physically and he followed it up with a great performance from the middle of the field.
“Sitting back in the first half he got a couple of monstrous scores. And he was all over the field.
“When he’s like that, let’s be honest, he’s up there with the top three or four hurlers in the country… when he’s like that mentality and physically.
“And it’s great for both Mount Sion and Waterford to see him like that and please God it will continue into the autumn.”
However, McGrath believes the Waterford championship is likely to prove a straight fight between champions Ballygunner and his own club De La Salle.
“If they avoid each other, it looks like a Ballygunner - De La Salle final from the outset. They look to be a good bit ahead of any other team, albeit any team can be caught on a given day.”
After their opening round 2-22 to 0-9 hammering of Tallow, Ballygunner are now unbeaten in 34 Waterford championship games. McGrath believes the kingpins still don’t get enough credit for their achievements.
“They’ve been in 22 of the last 24 county finals. The easy thing to say is they have huge numbers, but they work really hard and they have some great leaders among them. And they are constantly trying to raise the bar every year and we’re all playing catchup, De La Salle included.
“It often gets lost when you talk about Ballygunner, the concentration on hard work, and how well they are led and coached.”
Currently coaching Faythe Harriers in Wexford, McGrath reveals there is one aspect of the restarted club game he is a touch uncomfortable with — with dressing rooms off limits, he is giving his pre-match and half-time speeches in front of an audience in the stands.
“Subconsciously you’re thinking, you don't want to be bawling fellas out of it in front of people. You kind of feel that everyone is listening to you. So you are nearly watching yourself. Which is an awful way to be in life, watching what you’re doing or saying.
“It’s very hard to recreate a dressing room. Albeit dressing rooms are very different these days. There’s only a minute or two where you really go at them, there’s so much activation and mobilisation.
“But there's still that period in a dressing room where you can create that bit of electricity, the bit of madness.”
McGrath also finds the quarterly water breaks a bit “weird”.
“Sometimes you feel like you have to say something and you might be better off saying nothing at all.”