Austin Gleeson pictured at the Fitzgibbon Cup finals media event. Dan Sheridan/INPHO

'Waterford fans are great when you're going well, but when you're bad, they're probably among the worst around'

Austin Gleeson was speaking as he prepares to take a year out from playing with the Waterford hurlers.

AUSTIN GLEESON SAYS he’s content with his decision to take a year out from hurling for Waterford after enduring a difficult few seasons which drew criticism for the team.

Gleeson says that his family was sometimes exposed to some of the negative remarks directed at him and his teammates, and has been frustrated by rumours that have circulated about the team and himself. He believes Waterford fans can be great, but that they are also the “worst around” when the team is performing poorly.

Gleeson confirmed his 2024 exit in an interview with the Irish Examiner last September, explaining at the time that he needed a break to revive his appetite for the game.

The Mount Sion man says he has found it difficult to watch on as the new season gets underway, admitting that he had a ticket for the game against Clare on Sunday but decided to stay at home instead.

“An hour before the game it really hit home and I ended up not going,” he begins. “I actually didn’t even watch the first few minutes of the game. It had more of an effect than I thought it was going to have on me. I was only talking to my father after the game and he said it probably made a bit of sense that you were like that.

“Once I settled down and I was checking the scores on Twitter, I said I should be watching it. I ended up turning it on then. But it was definitely hard to watch the first game in Walsh Park in the new stadium. It was tough at the start but it got easier as the game went on.”

While Gleeson says that it feels “strange” not to be involved with the team this year, he admits that “wouldn’t have been 100%” and is happy to commit his time to club hurling in 2024. 

Gleeson is one of the most exciting hurlers in the country, and enjoyed a sensational season for Waterford in 2016 as he was crowned the Young Hurler and Hurler of the Year. But he has often been the subject of criticism since due to individual performances as well as the team’s recent difficulties in the championship. 

“It does have an effect on you. There’s no point saying it doesn’t. You’re trying to stay away and avoid as many people as you possibly can.

“But when there’s people saying stuff to my family, you’re thinking, ‘Why are they saying it to them?’ They’re not training, they’re not on the field. 

“Certain people are trying to look for a reaction and then spread it around. Waterford fans are great when you’re going well but when you’re bad, they’re probably among the worst around. That’s being completely honest. It’s a hard place to be when things are not going right.”

Gleeson added that rumours of discontent in the squad have been “frustrating” for him to hear and was that he also disappointed to discover people have been saying that he returned to training with Waterford recently. 

“It’s just complete lies,” he says. “I know it goes on in every county but especially down here.” 

Gleeson previously considered taking the hiatus from Waterford last year but decided to return in 2023 after a few encouraging conversations with teammates. He praises manager Davy Fitzgerald for giving him the freedom to consider his decision and stresses that he was under no pressure to return for the 2024 campaign.

However, Waterford were derailed by another poor run in the Munster championship last season as they managed to pick up just one win to finish at the bottom of the group.

The Déise have failed to emerge from the Munster SHC round-robin series since its introduction in 2018, shipping some heavy defeats along the way including a 12-point loss to Clare last year. Waterford, however, did contest the 2020 All-Ireland final when the competition was reverted to a provincial knockout and qualifier system.

“The round robin hasn’t been Waterford’s best friend,” Gleeson says. “No one can put a finger on it to be honest. No one knows why. 

“It’s something hopefully the lads can put right and get out of the Munster stage.”

Waterford hurler and Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup finalist with WIT, Austin Gleeson was speaking as he looks ahead to the conclusion of the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup.

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