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Thursday 8 December 2016

'We went out like animals - and we'll have to do that again' says Gleeson

Waterford’s Austin Gleeson passes the sliotar as Kilkenny’s Kieran Joyce closes in. Pic: Sportsfile
Waterford’s Austin Gleeson passes the sliotar as Kilkenny’s Kieran Joyce closes in. Pic: Sportsfile

It may seem a strange metaphor, but Austin Gleeson's depiction of Waterford's mindset during Sunday's epic deadlock encapsulates what you need to beat Kilkenny.

And even then it wasn't quite enough. "We just went out like animals," says Gleeson, "and we'll have to do that again next week."

Easier said than done. Can Waterford hope to have so many hurlers 'in the zone' when All-Ireland SHC semi-final battle resumes in Thurles on Saturday evening?

They'll probably need that, and more, if only in the expectation that Kilkenny will be a whole lot better, as they invariably tend to be in replays.

But Gleeson believes Waterford will be ready - physically and psychologically.

Recalling their 2015 semi-final, he says: "Last year has been emphasised by the players - it was men against boys.

MATCHED

"We set our stall out that we weren't going to be run over. We matched them for what we thought might win us the game and we were very close.

"We're young, we're fit. The backroom team have us flying so we'll just keep going and going. Rest is going to be key this week. As long as we get in the rest and recovery, there's going to be more in the tank."

Whether there's enough mental strength to move on from Sunday's 'what if?' stalemate is another matter.

Gleeson accepts that "in ways" it felt like a defeat "but in other ways it's Kilkenny.

"We were given absolutely no hope coming up here and to put in a performance like that and be five points up with 15 minutes to go ... the goal was a sucker punch but we kept going. We played well; Kilkenny, being Kilkenny, never gave up. When they got the goal, a team of old might have ducked away and let it go - but we just kept going.

"At least we didn't lose the game. That's another consolation and we have another go on Saturday night."

SWASHBUCKLING

The play-anywhere Mount Sion man led from the front on Sunday with a swashbuckling five points . And yet he was only one of many individual heroes.

"If you don't believe, there's no point in turning up," he surmises. "We just believed from the off, when the draw was made, that if we beat Wexford we were going to be playing Kilkenny. We played them last year and they won by six points in the end, so we just knew we had to bring it and thankfully we did."

In response to the inevitable question about Waterford's decision to jettison their defensive system and go man-for-man, Gleeson counters that the performance stemmed more from attitude than tactics.

"We've actually played that way a couple of times this year," he says, "but it's just we worked a lot harder ... we just need to bring it again next week.

"No matter what the lads have planned for us, we just need to play it on the field."

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