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Gleeson gunning for glory

posted 26 Nov 2010, 01:17 by Unknown user

Gleeson gunning for glory

By Diarmuid O’Flynn

Friday, November 26, 2010

In Thurles Sarsfields’ march to Sunday’s Munster club SHC final against De La Salle (Waterford), one player has been ultra-consistent — midfielder Michael Gleeson, lately added to the Tipperary hurling panel.

He was born in Drogheda, but that was just happenstance; his father, Michael Snr, was domiciled in Balbriggan and starring with the local O’Dwyers hurling team, but when a work transfer came up, Michael Snr jumped, and his son, then only four, immediately settled in.

"I was lucky enough at underage," says Michael Jr, "We had a good team — not so good at U12 and U14 but after that we started picking up, developed as a team, and everything came from there."

At that time Sars’ seniors were still struggling — one of the great mysteries of club hurling, how a club that had been an a powerhouse for decades could drop off so completely, go from a position in 1965 where they had just completed their second five-in-a-row in 11 years (interrupted by Toomevara in the final of 1960), to winning just one title — 1975 —– in the next 40.

"Ah sure, the slagging at school was always a factor," says Gleeson.

"It didn’t really affect us, we were lucky enough ourselves to have a bit of success at underage, and we’ve managed to transfer that on to the senior team."

So they have; Sars eventually made the breakthrough again in 2005, but that team failed to make any headway in Munster. In 2006, along with current Tipperary county stars Padraic Maher and Michael Cahill, Michael made his début, and last year another county title was added. Still no real progress in Munster but a one-point loss to eventual Munster champions Newtownshandrum (Cork) was no disgrace.

Now Michael and his team-mates want more, "Last year was the first time for most of us and we got a taste for it. There’s no point being in it, training up to October, November, unless you intend to win it. You don’t get that many chances so you must put everything into it, give it a go."

Just as they have been in every game they’ve played this year, Sars are again favourites, but as in the narrow semi-final win over Kilmallock, against yet another top-class side, Michael is taking nothing for granted.

"Absolutely not. I saw a DVD of De La Salle in their semi-final win (over Sars of Cork), they were very good. They started badly but then got into it; they missed a load of chances, trailed going into the last quarter, but showed great doggedness and fight to come back and win it in extra-time.

"Very impressive overall, very strong. They have the experience of winning this title already (2007), they have the marquee names like John Mullane, Kevin Moran, Bryan Phelan, but they also have lads with the experience of winning the Harty Cup and colleges All-Ireland. They have Dean Twomey in midfield, a fine player, Paudie Nevin at wing-forward, scored five points from play the last day.

"What’s very impressive about them is that they work hard as a unit — if one lad isn’t scoring, he’s setting it up for someone else."

A bit like Sars themselves, in fact, who are managed by Michael Snr? "Yeah, that’s one thing that has been emphasised to us for the last couple of years — work-rate. Individually we have a lot of great hurlers on the panel, but we weren’t winning; then we all started working that bit harder, and everything started to open up for us, we started getting more success.

"You see that with Lar Corbett, it’s work-rate, movement off the ball, creating space for someone else. Pa Bourke, who wouldn’t be renowned for his defensive duties, ran half the length of the field in the Tipperary semi-finals to hook a lad — that’s the kind of thing that wins big games for you, it lifts everyone, drives them on."

That, and having someone like Michael Gleeson in the engine room.

Picture: Michael Gleeson


This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Friday, November 26, 2010

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