Deja vu hit me watching John Keenan walk up to the umpires last Sunday before calling Austin Gleeson aside as memories of my own moment of insanity surfaced again.
I’ll never forget Seanie McMahon doing the same thing with his body language in 2004 — as well as the fact that Brian Murphy was still on the ground — telling me there was a long walk to the touchline as red fog descended.
Aussie’s walk past Liam Cahill reminded me of trudging past Justin McCarthy in 2004, not making eye contact and with an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. While I endured an agonizing second half, Austin’s job was already done.
That’s what baffles Waterford fans, how can that happen when you’re 19 points ahead? Of course it can, because Gleeson is a flawed genius who plays on the edge, and he’s open to mistakes being made at every stage of the game, no matter the outcome.
I resonate with Aussie and what he’s been through this week, with a massive void left by his absence in today’s league final against Cork, particularly after his semi-final performance against Wexford when I was in awe of him.
I have an 11-year-old daughter who adores Aussie and while I’ve played with some incredible hurlers during my time at Waterford, Gleeson in full swing is the best thing I’ve ever seen.
Flawed geniuses are capable of anything, with Diego Maradona and Ronnie O’Sullivan springing to mind. Hence the reason they put bums on the seats. They have the X-factor every gamer dreams of, but small things can cause them to make big mistakes.
Some teams know how to go after a flawed genius and get under their skin – look at Peter Ebdon and Mark Selby and how they played Ronnie in snooker – and I’m glad Waterford didn’t object.
I took it upon myself 18 years ago not to walk this path and take my medicine instead, but the next six weeks were an ordeal. I trained for six weeks and knew I couldn’t even get off and it was painful. Tonight will be painful for him, but this could be a blessing in disguise.
While it’s a national decider he doesn’t have to endure an All Ireland semi-final or final, while in 2004 I knew I might not get a chance to play again that year and I didn’t put it to Kilkenny to look score a goal.
I’m still thinking about what I could have done to get us over the line against the Cats in a summer when we were at the peak of our powers. But the real Aussie stuff is yet to come and people will quickly forget the league.
The penny drops when you miss big games. You don’t want to feel that way again because it’s a harrowing experience and you know you’ve failed everyone, including yourself.
That’s why I was so raw when Tony O’Donoghue grabbed me for this interview after winning the final in Munster and I started talking about how much “I love me County”. The whole thing was a low experience for me.
You decide that you will try not to get involved in these shenanigans again, even if you can never rule it out. I got sent off against Ballygunner in 2009 and that probably cost us a district championship.
If you’re the Aussie type of player, try to contain it as best you can, but you can’t put that fire out of his game. If you take that harshness away, then you don’t have the same Austin Gleeson, so it’s just a matter of being a little bit cuter.
Tony Browne, another Mount Sion man, will do him real good now and this is where he will excel. Browne is almost a counselor and he will flourish while Cahill will have a few quiet words with Gleeson.
Cahill has made him the ultimate player since arriving in the South East and he will stress how important he will be if Waterford are to come over the line next summer. Aussie is definitely an easy target for criticism, but he also needs to take the bullseye off his back.
Much like Gearóid Hegarty, the standout players who play on the fringes come under a little more scrutiny and often come onto the pitch with a slight disadvantage in terms of physicality and discipline.
Little is said about the punishment they receive and the words they receive, but some examples cannot detract from what Gleeson has done for the game over the past eight years.
No one should ever try to change Austin Gleeson because that is what makes him the player he is, but work definitely needs to be done to avoid situations that could result in games being missed and the team getting injured.
He doesn’t owe Waterford anything, but he owes it to himself to cut this out and if he does he can deliver the ultimate and cement himself as the greatest player to ever attract the white and blue.
Cork are marginal favorites at Thurles tonight but Cahill will demand more given the absence of big names.
This one will go to the end – remember the last Munster 2010 replay under lights – but Waterford can beat it without their captain too.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/hurling/austin-gleesons-red-card-felt-like-deja-vu-but-hell-learn-lessons-like-i-did-41512359.html John Mullane: Austin Gleeson’s red card felt like deja vu, but he’ll learn lessons like I did