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'Austin will bounce back. He's 21, he'll have more good days in the Waterford jersey'

2016 Hurler of the Year Austin Gleeson was called ashore in the 63rd minute of yesterday’s defeat to Cork.

Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Waterford manager Derek McGrath is backing 2016 Hurler of the Year Austin Gleeson to recover quickly after he was substituted during yesterday’s Munster semi-final loss to Cork.

Gleeson was hauled ashore in the 63rd minute and replaced by Jake Dillon, as Cork supporters massed on the Town End terrace met the change with ironic cheers.

McGrath also insisted that there were no excuses from the Déise camp following their five-point reverse in Thurles.

Gleeson did score two fine points – the first of those a magnificent score in the first half – but he cut a peripheral figure for the most part.

The Mount Sion star was deployed in a roving commission from corner forward but struggled to exert any real influence in sweltering conditions.

McGrath conceded that there was an argument to leave the Gleeson on until the end of the game, but suspected that the 21-year-old was “fatigued.”

McGrath explained: “That was the argument we had – is he someone capable of doing something special near the end of the game, of course he is.

“But with the day that was in it, the conditions, we erred on the side of fresh legs as opposed to someone who’s trying hard but isn’t quite flowing.

Derek McGrath It was a tough day at the office for Waterford boss Derek McGrath. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“No different to what we did with him in the last few years, we gave Austin a free role and hoped Colm Spillane would follow him.

“He did, we hoped space would open up – but that’s sport. That’s the reality of what can happen.

Austin will bounce back. He’s 21, he’ll have more good days in the Waterford jersey. I was more delighted with his conduct when he came off the field, encouraging the team.

“There were other guys who struggled there today, other key performers struggled, without naming names.

“Austin worked hard for the team for the duration he was on the field without it absolutely flowing for him.

“We’d be hopeful Austin will regroup like all of us and come good for the qualifiers.”

Jamie Barron is yellow carded by Barry Kelly Barry Kelly shows a yellow card to Waterford's Jamie Barron. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

A wholly honest McGrath also rejected the suggestion that an eleven-week break since Waterford’s last competitive outing played a part – and refused to apportion any blame to match referee Barry Kelly.

He said: “I’d love to cling to that (lay-off) but I’d be more pragmatic.

“I thought we were chasing it, straight down the line. We created chances but they were bitty chances.

“We didn’t do what we’re supposed to, and the management are probably culpable there – I just felt we were chasing the game.”

Waterford appeared to have two strong penalty shouts – both on Maurice Shanahan – that were waved away by Kelly.

But McGrath insisted: “I wouldn’t really have a problem with the way the game was refereed.

I want to be consistent with our narrative from last year, and I think the day is gone when Waterford people are on the way home blaming referees.

“We only have ourselves to blame for the fact that we didn’t play well enough and the fact that Cork were that bit better than us.”

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