After the win over Clare in the championship, there was a lot of attention paid to Austin Gleeson.
Specifically, the comparisons to be made between him and his clubmate and predecessor in the Waterford number six jersey.
“Look, everyone in Waterford looked up to Ken McGrath,” says Gleeson.
“He put everything on the line for the county when he played — and for Mount Sion. Even to be compared with Ken is phenomenal for me, because when I was growing up he was the player I tried to base my game on.
“If I even reached some of the heights he did I’d be delighted.”
He did a fair impersonation in that championship game, when he collected the man of the match award.
How rewarding was that after the disappointment of losing the league final replay?
“It was a performance I was hoping to give all year, and it just clicked, really, on the right day. I owe a lot to the lads around me who were winning the ball, because I certainly didn’t win much dirty ball myself, which I’d be looking to improve on.
“It was a great win and it was great to get the plaudits, but it’s more important to focus on what we can accomplish when we all work hard together, that’s the important thing.
“We’d know some players probably had their best game of the year while others didn’t, and have room for improvement. That’s the important thing we took out of the game, that we have 17, 18, 20 players who can step up to the plate. That’s the mentality we’re trying to build.”
A strong mentality leads to a productive workrate, he adds.
“That’s it. You have to have that workrate, if you don’t then nothing else matters.
“We’re trying to build a mentality based on working like dogs for each other, fighting for every ball and winning every one we can. We want to look on every game with the view that if it’s a dogfight then we’ll come out on top.
“I’m not saying that the other counties don’t have the same attitude, they do, but our attitude is that as long as every player is putting in a 1,000% in training, and in matches, then that’s what we need if we want to get anywhere.”
The buzz is growing in the southeast ahead of the game, Waterford’s second Munster final appearance in a row.
“There’s still a bit to go but you’d notice going around the town that there’s a good bit of bunting up, plenty of flags. It’s building all the time.
“We had a round of club matches and I think there might be another round in the Western Division, so you’ll see it really start to hype up then after that, these few days with the newspapers and the radio, the buzz in Dungarvan and Waterford and everywhere, and it really hits home, you’re going to play in a Munster final.”
They’ve been improving since Derek McGrath came in as manager; the progress has been incremental.
“The first year, basically we went nowhere, to be honest. To come back the next year and get to a league final and win it, and a Munster final was fantastic.
“So going the exact same route this year, apart from losing the league final, that’s been a massive help. Tipperary will be a massive challenge, we know that from last year (Tipp win). We’ll build up to it as if it’s another game, and that’s where last year’s experience will help.
“Looking back to that, maybe some of our younger players got caught up in the whole occasion a little, the day more than the match, so it’s good to have that experience to draw on.”
He noticed the atmosphere ramping up last year compared to his minor days.
“Definitely. It was a full house in Thurles and you literally couldn’t talk to the player 10 yards away from you. Little things like that, you have to learn from those and make sure you prepare accordingly. It was totally different to anything I’d ever played before.
“A good few of us played in the All-Ireland minor final in 2013, which was huge, but the difference is you have Croke Park only half-full for the minor game, while in the senior Munster final they’re all in their seats for the game. This year we know about that, we’ve been there, so we’ll be that bit more prepared.
“And hopefully the result will be different to last year’s.”
TIPPERARY V WATERFORD
Sunday: Gaelic Grounds, 4pm
Referee: B Gavin (Offaly)
TV: RTÉ 2
Bet: Tipperary 4/6, Waterford 13/8, Draw 8/1
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