Austin Gleeson will not be returned to the Waterford forward unit to compensate for the loss of Pauric Mahony, manager Derek McGrath insists.
The broken tibia suffered by centre-forward Mahony while on club duty over the weekend leaves a gaping hole to be filled in the Waterford attack and McGrath says he will look to the bench rather than redeploying Gleeson, the Mount Sion hurler operating at right half and centre-back in Waterford’s run to league glory.
Gleeson spent his maiden championship campaign last summer in the Waterford half-forward line and the Déise manager accepts the obvious move is to hand the 19-year old the vacant number 11 shirt for their Munster championship opener against Cork next month.
“The talk seems to be Darragh Fives to five and Austin Gleeson to 11. I don’t see that happening,” asserted McGrath.
“Austin and Pauric are very different players. Austin is a more evasive type of player in terms of raw speed from the centre-forward area. Pauric was sitting a bit deeper and able to dictate things by coming deeper and going left and right. Austin is more about winning it in the air and going at fellas. He is probably a bit different to the role that we would have expected out of Pauric.
“Pauric, as I said, tends to go left and right and comes into nice pockets, whereas Austin would burn you fairly fast. He is suited to the wing a bit better.
“Down the line, I envisage a situation where Waterford will use Austin at centre-forward. I envisage a lot of people talking in the run up [to the Cork game] that we should do this and that with Austin, but they probably need to sit back and watch how Austin is playing. I don’t, at the minute, envisage a change there.”
And who does the league-winning boss expect will assume the free-taking duties come championship, Mahony hitting 1-90 across their eight spring fixtures, including 0-11 in the final.
“We have a number of players who take frees with their clubs – Maurice Shanahan, Jamie Barron, Martin O’Neill, Gavin O’Brien and Stephen Bennett.
“It is just a matter of us nailing down one when we do come back in, deciding that this is our man rather than having a rira and rula-bula about who is going to hit the frees and if they miss the first one, what kind of over-analysis are they going to be subjected to. That needs to be done straightaway. We’re meeting tonight [Monday] and we’ll chat about it.
“Pauric is a nine out of 10 man in terms of converting frees. The nature of the game we’re playing, we’re winning a lot of frees around that area so his loss is fairly significant to us.”
McGrath believes news of Mahony’s season-ending injury has stifled the positivity surrounding his group in the wake of their league final hammering of Cork.
“It doesn’t take from the gloss of the league win. We’ve parked the gloss. The optimism that is there in Waterford is dampened.”
The Déise had 10-points to spare over Cork earlier this month and McGrath expects his charges to be hit by a red “avalanche” on June 7.
“What I do know about Cork is that if you are subjected to over-analysis within your own county, if you are subjected to criticism from within your own county, it can sting you, hurt you and results in a dressing-room being extremely motivated in the run up to a Munster championship game.
“That is what we are going to get from Cork the next day. I can actually see Cork being in our faces. I know what is coming.
“It is a similar scenario to what Davy [Fitzgerald] faced. Two years ago, Clare relegated Cork in the league and then Cork were waiting for Clare when they came to Limerick for the Munster championship. To me, all the aces are with Cork.”
On their own championship preparation, he stressed the importance of not getting too comfortable with the counter-attacking system that delivered league glory: “When you are going well you are afraid to change anything, you are afraid to change your warm-up even though you mightn’t be entirely happy with it.
“We have four weeks now to say we weren’t happy with this element and we weren’t happy with that element. You do not want to become stale.”
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