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'He's a John Mullane type of figure' - Ex-Brighton player backed for key role with Waterford hurlers

Austin Gleeson believes Dessie Hutchinson could make a big impact for the Déise in 2020.

WATERFORD HURLER AUSTIN Gleeson believes ex-Brighton footballer, and current Ballygunner star, Dessie Hutchinson could prove to be a “massive player” for the Déise in 2020.

upmc-gaagpa-launch Waterford star Austin Gleeson. Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

Hutchinson played an instrumental role for Ballygunner in 2019 as they collected a sixth consecutive county title on the way back to another Munster club SHC final.

The reigning provincial champions put their crown on the line against Tipperary’s Borris-Ileigh over the weekend where Hutchinson’s three points from play wasn’t enough to prevent his side from being dethroned.

Hutchinson represented the Waterford footballers earlier this year in their Munster SFC quarter-final against Clare, having previously been released from Brighton & Hove Albion in 2018. 

The Waterford hurlers have reconvened for their pre-season preparations and Gleeson reckons that Hutchinson could be in line for a more permanent position in the panel as the new season draws near.

He even sees glimpses of a former Waterford legend in the Ballygunner man’s game.

“He’s in on the set up,” Gleeson begins.

There’s 43 or 44. There’s no definite panel. You could see how he’d fit in for us. He’s the type of forward we’ve been missing the last few years. He’s a [John] Mullane type of figure, I suppose, the way his feet are and he’s two-sided.

“I have a feeling he could be a massive player for us.”

Remembering Hutchinson in his earlier years, Gleeson continues:

“He’s a year younger than me. I remember him playing Tony Forristal and was doing stuff at 14. He was doing stuff that a 14-year-old shouldn’t be able to do. He was playing corner-forward back then.

“Himself and Patrick Curran were in full-forward. I think the first year they ever won the Tony Forristal was his year and himself and Patrick were the two main players.”

dessie-hutchinson-celebrates-at-the-end-of-the-game Dessie Hutchinson celebrates after Ballygunner's victory over Patrickswell in the Munster club SHC semi-final. Ken Sutton / INPHO Ken Sutton / INPHO / INPHO

The 2019 championship brought another raft of disappointments for the Waterford hurlers. They finished the Munster SHC round-robin series with a clean sweep of defeats, which saw them crash out of the championship at the provincial stage for the second year-in-a-row.

Paraic Fanning subsequently stepped down as Waterford manager after just one season in charge, and has since been replaced by Tipperary native Liam Cahill.

For Gleeson, the early exit offered him a chance to leave Waterford and Ireland behind for a while and sample a different lifestyle in New York. 

“Once I got the call I said ‘yeah,’” says the Mount Sion man who was invited to come to the States by some of his friends from college.

It was straight away. I needed to get out of here and escape for myself. Over the last few years, it was something I needed to do. I didn’t have a clue what was going on here. I remember I visited my uncle in Chicago and my Grandmother was giving out saying that I never even contacted.

“I just totally escaped Ireland for eight weeks. It was possibly one of the best things that could have happened to me. I came back a totally different person, getting away from all that negative vibes around.

“It’s a totally different world. No-one says anything to you. You can literally finish work, go for a drink or two with the lads, go home go to bed and get up the next morning.

“That’s it, there’s nothing said. If you do that in Ireland [people say], ‘that lad was in and he was falling round the place.’ It’s a totally different world and it was an unreal few weeks.”

Gleeson was famously crowned the Young Hurler of the Year and Hurler of the Year in 2016. It was a unique double-achievement that placed him under an intense spotlight, but it came at a price as expectations around his potential soared.

austin-gleeson-and-jack-browne Gleeson in action against Clare in the Munster SHC round-robin series. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The subsequent years were less enjoyable for him due to the increased demands, but as he approaches his 25th birthday in 2020, he feels he has matured.

His trip to New York certainly helped him get through that growing-up process.

“I was in college in Waterford, I never really went outside Waterford or anything. It’s really after opening my eyes and seeing that there’s a whole other world outside Waterford.

“Even in the off-season, thinking about going away for a few weeks doing South East Asia and all those places. You see people going and thinking ‘I’d love to do it,’ but I wouldn’t actually. It’s something you always want to do now.”

Austin Gleeson was speaking at the announcement of UPMC as Official Healthcare Partner to the GAA/GPA. UPMC will work with the GAA/GPA to promote the health of Gaelic Players and the communities in which they play.

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