They’ve put it away now, but for the younger members of the Waterford senior hurling panel, it was a tough four days. Defeated by Tipperary in the Munster senior final, the U21s on the panel travelled to Clare and were beaten by the home side in their Munster semi-final.
But Austin Gleeson insists the focus is now firmly on Sunday’s All-Ireland quarter-final against Dublin.
“After the Sunday of the Munster final, we just parked it, basically, and put it away. The U21s on the team went up to Ennis to play Clare in the Munster championship, and that didn’t go so well either.
“On the days involved, the two better teams won. We have no complaints on that score. Tipperary put in a massive effort in the senior final and we just didn’t match their work-rate on the day, simple as that. That’s the reason we didn’t win.
“In the U21 game, Clare showed up, basically, and we didn’t.”
For Gleeson and the other youngsters, it was a steep learning curve. He’s hoping they can bank the lessons and draw on them in the future.
“We turned up in the Munster final and played well for a while at least, but the experience Tipperary had stood to them, definitely. It drove them on.
“Hopefully, in a couple of years we’ll be able to turn that around, that maybe we’ll be in the position where we have experienced players and the other sides will have newcomers to a big day like a Munster final.”
Before this year’s Munster final, Gleeson pointed out that he and some of his team-mates had experienced a packed Gaelic Grounds in the minor decider two years ago, but he acknowledged that last Sunday week was a step up in terms of atmosphere.
“It was massive, to be fair. In the minor final in Limerick a couple of years ago, there was a big crowd, a great buzz, but it was on a different level a couple of weeks ago. It was the first time I’d seen Thurles that full in a few years. The atmosphere was unbelievable.
“And you can’t really know what that’s like until you go through it. Even something as small as going up through the square before the game on the bus, you see the crowds — everyone on the bus was in awe, practically, because it was our first time, most of us, being in that situation.
“It was a great day in a lot of ways, apart from the result. We’d be hoping there’s a few more days like that ahead of us.”
Now it’s Dublin in the opposite corner. The men from the capital just edged out Limerick in the previous round, and they bring a strong physical presence to Thurles this weekend.
“They’re going to give us a different challenge to Tipperary, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier,” says Gleeson.
“Dublin have the advantage over us in terms of experience as well — only two years ago they nearly made an All-Ireland final. Cork just beat them in a semi-final when they had a man sent off. So they’re well used to the big days.
“They’re a very physically strong team, they work very hard for each other — we know well that we’ll have to pick it up a bit from the Munster final if we’re going to beat them.”
It can’t hurt Waterford’s chances to play in Thurles once again. Gleeson acknowledges that it’s become pretty familiar to them this season.
“We’ve no complaints about the venue, it’s been going well for us.
“It wouldn’t matter, though, the venue is the last thing on your mind for a big game. It didn’t matter to us where the Munster final was going to be played, the same for this game — we’ll turn up and we’ll play, and hopefully we’ll see Croke Park next month.”
After that Munster final, there was quite the buzz on social media over an exchange the Mount Sion man had with an 11-year-old fan, with Gleeson being praised for taking the time to chat to the youngster. He says it was nothing that his team-mates weren’t doing.
“Look, I was on the field after the 2010 Munster final, when Waterford beat Cork. I was a kid looking for autographs myself that evening and now I’m playing alongside a lot of them.
“It’s just that my one got publicised a bit, it took off alright on social media. Every other player signed as many autographs as me.”
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