Gleeson: 'Two years of hard work was being put on the line'
By Cian O’Connell
The Munster SHC Final defeat brought all sorts of pain, but Waterford are on the road to recovery.
Impressive when claiming provincial glory in the Bord Gais Energy under 21 Championship, Waterford did what was required at the All Ireland quarter-final stage against Wexford.
How it was achieved didn’t carry too much weight, the only mission Waterford wanted to accomplish was setting up a clash with Kilkenny.
“It was absolutely huge,” Austin Gleeson remarked about the success over Wexford. The stakes were piled seriously high. “It was emphasised a lot before the match that it was basically do or die.
“Two years of hard work was being put on the line. That wasn't even the management, that was the players who really drove it on. That shows the calibre of leaders we have in the panel - the likes of Philip Mahony, Kevin Moran, Brick, and Shane Fives.
“Those lads just help us perform and stood up to the plate, they carried the youngsters over the line. They got us into the game when a couple of us were struggling to get into the game. Derek and the lads drove it into our head that we needed to go out to perform like we can.
“Not to say the Munster Final was a fluke, it was just one of those days when nothing fell for us. We aren't taking away from Tipperary, they are a great team. They're going to have a massive say. They didn't win the minor or senior titles for nothing, I suppose they are a county with a massive hurling tradition. We know we have our hands full on Wednesday. We are going into the rest of the year with all of that parked.”
Kilkenny remain the team that everybody judges themselves against. Waterford are no different, but encouragement has been taken by how the Deise have competed with the striped men during the past 12 months according to Gleeson.
“Yeah, playing against them in the league this year and in the Championship last year has given us experience,” Gleeson admits.
“Obviously the Tipp game shows that we need to be more hardworking than the team opposite us. That is going to be our focus, no matter what happens, whoever works harder will win the game.
“That is how it goes nowadays. It isn't just about hurling, it is about hard work and everybody going in being dogged. That is the way it has to go from now on.”
Waterford believe that a dashing and daring display can be summoned. “Absolutely we know that we will need a top class performance,” Gleeson acknowledges.
“We are going into it anticipating that it might happen through the year. Everyone knows that Kilkenny were going to be back in Croke Park again in August, we will drive on for it, hopefully we will be ready for it.
“We will trust the lads, the way they will prepare us. Whatever they say, we will do, hopefully in the end it will get us over the line. If that happens Waterford will be back again.
“Beating Kilkenny would be a massive stepping stone in trying to build with this crop of players that are there. If we beat Kilkenny it is just going to be huge for the county for the next few years in every way.”