Darren Gleeson has thanked Michael Ryan for sticking with him as Tipperary’s first-choice goalkeeper despite his advancing years.
The Portroe man, 36 next March, was determined to show he still was capable of performing at the highest level and four saves on top of a fine puck-out display illustrated just that against Kilkenny.
But Gleeson first needed the faith of his manager.
“It’s just a dream for me to get to the field. I’ve spent a long time waiting for it and I’ve a lot of people to thank for getting me there, staying with me. Mick could have easily gone with a young goalie and put his own stamp on it but he trusted me and I’m delighted he gave me the honour.”
Asked why Ryan chose to back him, Gleeson shrugged: “Maybe a bit of experience. I had my moments against Kilkenny as well – a free in the league final and that steeled me as well that I wanted to come back and prove myself and win on the big stage.
“I’d great people driving me on as well, great mentors and I can’t go without mentioning Brian Horgan there in the background all year, our maor foirne on the line but our goalkeeping coach also.
“The Galway manager Micheál Donoghue last year did great work with us as well, set a tone with the team. There’s a lot of people but the final man is Eamon O’Shea. A fantastic man. We carried him with us and Mick carried a bit of him as well along with his own stamp and we know who was with us.”
As for staying on for another year, Gleeson indicated that will be up to Ryan.
“Mick has to pick a panel in November and I’ve never been the smallest in November! If he wants me to do it, I have to be smaller than I usually am!” On Sunday, Gleeson became the first player from his parish to claim an All-Ireland SHC medal in a playing capacity – he had been on the bench in 2010.
“It’s brilliant. We’ve unbelievable people in Port’. I met John Sheedy after the match, a selector with the minors. That means as much to John as it would to me. I’ve fantastic supporters, a great club. I think I’m the only one in Port’ with a medal but I tell you the whole parish will cherish my medals. It’s a group effort and they’re fantastic behind me.”
Gleeson had aimed to bamboozle Kilkenny with his restarts on Sunday. “The first half of the drawn game in ’14, we went short and long, short and then long and kept them guessing. I think we did that well (again). The boys were ferocious on the breaking ball. Bonner was just immense, Dan McCormack is a great lad. At the start of the year, if somebody said to you ‘Dan McCormack’ I didn’t know much about him, to be honest. He was phenomenal. He is a credit to his club and his family. He was brilliant.”
Like Brendan Maher and Seamus Callanan, Gleeson says attention is already beginning to move to 2017.
“We had some defeats against them but when we wake up in the morning the natural thing to do is to think about next year. It’s immediate as that. People say you carry defeats for a long time but you don’t really. They’re there in the background but you refocus and set your goals and go again. Kilkenny are doing that as we speak. Tipp are doing that as we speak. It’s amazing, the wheel turns and we’ll be at it again before you know it.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved