'If I tried a sideline cut, I’d probably hit myself on the ankles'

Ken McGrath’s a big fan of Austin Gleeson but reckons his heir apparent can do things that he couldn’t.

Image: Inpho

WATERFORD LEGEND KEN McGrath has admitted that he’s flattered by comparisons with clubmate and rising Déise star Austin Gleeson.

Observers have noticed similarities between McGrath and Gleeson in the way they play but McGrath insists that Gleeson can do things on the field that he couldn’t.

Gleeson, a 2013 All-Ireland minor winner and still just 20 years of age, was the matchwinner for Waterford on Sunday as he boomed over a free from inside his own half against Tipperary at Semple Stadium in stoppage time.

Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

And McGrath said: “I played a lot of hurling centre back and he (Gleeson) can play centre back or centre forward.

“He can do stuff that I could never do. I could never really solo with the ball and if I tried a sideline cut, I’d probably hit myself on the ankles!

“It’s early days for Austin but he’s a great lad for us. When he comes up to Mount Sion, he trains and mixes with the lads.

Austin Gleeson takes a side line puck Austin Gleeson strikes one of his trademark sideline cuts. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Even for people to say he’s something like myself is nice because I’m finished a good few years.

“Nothing seems to faze him but there’s a good few lads like that on the Waterford team.

He has all of the skills, can catch his own ball, has speed, can hit it off left or right. It’s great for the club to have such an important player for Waterford and it might inspire other lads in our club.”

Waterford made it three wins from three in Division 1A of the Allianz Hurling League with Sunday’s last-gasp victory over Tipp and their winning League streak dating back to last year has stretched to ten matches.

And McGrath admitted that it huge confidence can be gleaned from winning such a tight game against the reigning Munster champions.

Ken McGrath Ken McGrath's keeping a close eye on Waterford's progress. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

He’s preaching caution about the team’s long-term prospects, however, pointing out that it’s still only March.

McGrath, a three-time Allstar who won four Munster SHC medals with the county team, added: “It was a big enough game but it’s early enough in the year.

“But when you’re on a winning run, it’s good to keep it going and winning breeds confidence.

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“That’s what the team have, they’re very efficient and playing together.

“They outscored Tipp by 1-7 to 0-1 in a 20-minute spell during the second half and while the last free was lucky enough to get, it was an unbelievable effort by Austin.

“I’m not going to say that we’ll win All-Irelands or anything like that but I’m very impressed so far this year.

I honestly think they’re developing a toughness about them, they’re very fit, and when they open up and play good hurling, they’re very hard to stop because they’re all playing to a system.

“And what they have, and people don’t talk about it as much, is unreal skill levels. They get out of tight situations with nice, tight passes and their hurling is top notch.”

And McGrath believes that with Derek McGrath in charge, Waterford’s progression can continue on an upward curve.

He has noticed a slightly more expansive style of play from the team this year, after McGrath got the defensive structures in place in 2015.

Derek McGrath Waterford senior hurling manager Derek McGrath. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

McGrath added: “Everybody knows how dedicated he (McGrath) is and that’s rubbing off on the players and the people following the team.

He’s obsessed about it and that’s how you have to be with county hurling these days.

“In the first year (2014), people were saying he was too inexperienced but he’s had great success with some of these lads with De La Salle College and with the De La Salle senior club team.

“Last year was a great year for us but he understands that you have to build on that and not rest on winning the League, getting to a Munster final and All-Ireland semi-final.

“The game is not stopping and he’ll want to push on and get the most out of the group.”

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