"He just rang and said 'I haven't got it,'" - Davy Fitzgerald on Aussie Gleeson's departure
Davy Fitzgerald has no problem admitting that he had to exhaust every possible avenue to get Austin Gleeson to hurl for Waterford in 2022.
The Déise manager says that, initially, when he first took on the Waterford job, he could see the signs that Gleeson was lagging.
Fitzgerald recalls one of the first team-meeting of the year when, ten minutes before-hand, Gleeson rang him to tell him that he simply wasn't feeling it.
Between them, the Waterford management team Fitzgerald, Eoin Kelly, Donnacha O'Callaghan and Peter Queally coaxed Gleeson back into the fold for the 2022 season but it didn't go well for him.
The 2016 Hurler of the Year tore his hamstring in the League and then tweaked it coming up to the Championship, reducing his impact to mere substitute cameoas.
Fitzgerald and Gleeson spoke again, at the beginning of this year, and the Clare man says it was very clear to him that his star player needed a breather.
"Austin's an incredible guy, a lovely, lovely guy," says Fitzgerald, ahead of the 11th season of Ireland's Fittest Family.
"I got to know him over the last year, but would have known of his talents and would have talked to him once or twice before that. And I had a good feeling about him anyway.
"As I've said already, we probably pushed him a lot to come back last year and he wasn't really in the form to come back.
"I remember one of the meetings, he was meant to come to at the very start, and he just rang and said 'I haven't got it.'
"But we waited and persisted and coaxed him back.
"Austin's been around a long time, carried a lot of pressure and maybe just needs that small bit of time now."
Fitzgerald feels that, were he to push Gleeson, he may have even come back again for next year but he didn't want it to be a case of forcing a player into something they didn't want to do.
"You have to respect that and that was the attitude from us this year.
"Rather than forcing and pushing him. If we pushed, he's that type of guy, he probably would have come back, he doesn't want to let you down."
"But I just think he needs that bit of a breather.
"We talked about this, he's not retiring, he's going to give himself time and see how he feels.
"But there's more to life than hurling. I love hurling. But it's not everything. If I'm still there next year and he feels he has the buzz back, sure listen, no problem."
"I just think that where he's at right now. He needs the break," added Fitzgerald.
Ireland’s Fittest Family will make its return to RTÉ One on Sunday, October 29th, proudly sponsored by leading community retailer, Londis. Now in its 11th season, veteran coach and co-creator of the hit television show, Davy Fitzgerald was in Dublin today (Wednesday) to tease the most competitive season so far.
"Maybe me of seven or eight years ago as a manager, I'd have tried every single thing!
"Donncha (O'Callaghan) met him, Eoin Kelly, Peter, we did everything last year. I knew by talking to him that, by the end of Liam's last year, he needed that breather."
Fitzgerald had previously stated that Waterford's team performance advisor Donncha O'Callaghan had played a role in bringing Gleeson back, and the Clare man says that his Ireland's Fittest Family colleague is hugely popular among his Waterford squad.
He also hailed O'Callaghan for taking on the role with Waterford 'as a friend.'
"There's two sides to Donncha," says Fitzgerald.
"He brings the fun element and that enjoyment but when Donners has to switch it on, he's incredible.
"And when you listen to him about some of the experiences he has had with Munster and Ireland and the serious stuff, I love being around him. I eat up the stuff he has. He's a warrior, a competitor, as much as the fun guy you see. He has both which is very unique, and I'm so lucky that he's involved.
"He's doing me a huge favour, helping me out as a friend with this and I so appreciate it and I know the lads have great time for him."
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