Austin Gleeson was centre back on last year's minor team. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
Number 6

'Ultimately he’ll go down the Ken McGrath route' - high hopes for Waterford's teenage star

Waterford manager Derek McGrath can see Austin Gleeson developing in to a centre-half back.

AFTER HIS AMAZING goal against Cork, Waterford’s Austin Gleeson is now being compared to some of the county’s all time greats – even by the Déise boss.

Derek McGrath feels the 18 year-old, who lined out at wing-forward on Sunday, is destined to follow in the footsteps of none other than Waterford great Ken McGrath.

‘Ultimately he’ll go down the Ken McGrath route of ending up centre-back or wing-back, because he’s just a fine hurler.

Gleeson managed 1-2 in what his senior championship debut, following through on the promise he showed in last year’s All-Ireland winning Waterford minor team.

‘It’s great but I’ve seen him do it at schools’ level. In fairness, he dominated the minor championship from centre-back (last year).’

Ken McGrath played for the Waterford hurlers from 1996 until 2011, winning three All-Star awards. Ken began his career in the forward line and midfield before converting into a centre-back.

Ken McGrath James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Just six weeks after undergoing open heart surgery, McGrath was in Thurles on Sunday to watch his latest heralded successor in action.

According to the Waterford manager though there’s no need to worry about such high expectations weighing down the young man.

‘He’s a very level-headed young-fella with a lovely family behind him,’ he says.

‘Austin — we have to get under him at times, he’s so relaxed, very languid in terms of his style. We’re delighted for him.”

Waterford surrendered a nine point lead against Cork, and according to their manager they didn’t play to their best.

‘We’ve mixed emotions, we haven’t had a chance to see the decision (free on Nash) at the end of the game. We’re happy given the run-in to the game in terms of all the much-documented injuries we have.

‘We didn’t play to our best but we gave it everything, we were free, we were loose, that’s what we were hoping for in the build-up. We got absolutely everything in terms of effort and you can’t ask for more.

‘Obviously the games will go to and fro in terms of momentum, we found it hard to sustain it in the middle period of the second half and ultimately that counted against us.’

Derek McGrath Waterford manager Derek McGrath. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Waterford handed championship debuts to four players this weekend, including three U21′s.

‘We had the advantage of being under the radar in terms out of outside perception.’ he says.

‘There is depth, they’re young, they just need time to develop, and I know I’m contradicted there by the quality of Austin’s goal. I can see a flashback of it there in my mind now, he took the bull by the horns and just enjoyed the whole occasion.’

The former Waterford hurler began his managerial career with De La Salle College, where he enjoyed Harty Cup and All-Ireland colleges success.

‘We’re happy with the young lads – you’re looking at two different generations, the De La Salle lads that I was involved with myself, then the Waterford Colleges generation of Tadhg Burke, Colin Dunford – Austin was inside in De La Salle for that. I’m fusing those two generations with Michael Walsh, Jamie Nagle, Seamie Prendergast and those. That’s where it’s at, combining those three different groups.’

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