Hurler of the year Austin Gleeson has revealed how Derek McGrath talked him out of quitting the game last season after a disappointing display for Mount Sion’s U21s.
Gleeson was disillusioned and sent a text message to the senior manager that night saying he wanted to give up hurling. However, a conversation with McGrath the following morning changed his mind.
McGrath spoke about the matter this past summer but until now Gleeson hadn’t given his view on it.
“It was with the club, U21 again, it was one of the lads 21st’s after it. It was just the pressure kind of after the first year, I wasn’t really able for it. I sent a stupid text when I had a few drinks on me. It was literally 10 minutes later, five minutes later, he text me back, ‘I’ll ring you in the morning’.
“That was it, he rang me in the morning and we went for a drive and I just explained it was a stupid text that just came from a loss that maybe we shouldn’t have had and that was basically it. It was finished by then. That was it really, it was just a stupid text.
“I just felt in that moment that the demands, I just wouldn’t be able to cope with them. He collected me the next morning, I think we were out in the gym with Waterford and we went out there and I was just talking to him on the way out and that. The second he started talking, I knew it was the wrong decision to make, that I was never going to kind of leave the set up so it was just one of those stupid decisions I kind of regret.”
Gleeson has no hesitation in saying McGrath has been the greatest influence on his career to date, going back to his school days in De La Salle where McGrath taught and coached him. “His man- management is just incredible so the second he got me in that car I knew straight away that no matter what happened he’d always kind of be there. Everyone would tell you that, there’s stuff after happening and no-one knows about it on the panel, it’s between him and the player and that’s it, he won’t tell anyone and the player knows it’s going to stay confidential between the two of them and that’s the way it is.”
Gleeson can’t contemplate what the Waterford set-up would have been like had McGrath chosen to step aside after the All-Ireland semi-final replay loss to Kilkenny. The 21-year-old admitted there was a fear he would step away.
“He has a young family, two young kids there, that was the way he was thinking. And it was basically up to the family, more so than anything. He didn’t want to be going for a fourth year, out of the house, having meetings and on the phone the whole time but look, the family are after giving him the full backing. We are delighted that he is staying and we all believe that he is the man who can lead us the whole way.
“It (McGrath leaving) would have took its toll a good bit. I would have hated to be the man stepping into his shoes and being the next manager because his man-management is probably his best attribute. He has everyone on that team playing for him and that’s the main thing. So whoever stepped in would have to be a serious, serious manager. He is an unbelievable man and unbelievable manager.”
Gleeson is still coming to terms with being anointed hurler of the year by his peers last Friday week. Selector Dan Shanahan and club-mate Tony Browne have previous experience of the accolade. He’s spoken to both since as well as McGrath and his namesake Ken.
“Complete shock, to be honest,” said Gleeson, who will shortly return to Waterford IT to complete a business degree. “I wasn’t anticipating it one bit. Even when I was told, I was second-guessing and asking ‘are you sure?’ It was crazy to win the award and it probably didn’t hit until I had the award in my hands that night. And even at that it’s still not after sinking in what I’m after achieving and it probably won’t for a while. It’s in my head that it’s an unbelievable achievement to accept the award.”
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