Burgess native Tony Gleeson is coach of the Offaly Under 20 Hurling team.8

Burgess’ Gleeson central to taking down his native Tipp

Tipperary had one of our own centrally involved in the demise of the under 20’s in Saturday’s All-Ireland Final.

By Shane Brophy

Burgess native Tony Gleeson was added to the Offaly back-room team as coach for this campaign after a successful spell with Scoil Naomh Cormac from Kilcormac who won an All-Ireland schools title in his brief spell as a teacher there, and was also the coach of the Kilcormac/Killoughey team who won the Offaly senior championship last year so his knowledge of the many of the players made the transition easy.

“It’s never easy beating your own but there was a job to do and those boys in there are an unbelievable bunch,” he said following Offaly’s victory.

“I have had them for the last couple of years, especially the Kilcormac-Killoughey lads there.

“I knew what I was walking into, and they knew what they were going to get off of me. It was an easy situation in that sense and obviously they make up a large (11) bunch of the group, so had the respect of the dressing room fairly quickly.

“Their attitude, their willingness to hurl, has been fantastic. Everything you ask them to do they go out and do it. You give them specific instructions and they are carried out to a T, no questions asked.”

Coming into a heralded underage team that had some of the best young hurlers in the country, it was a good job to come into, but also a difficult one as after losing the under 20 final last year, only winning an All-Ireland would have been a step forward.

“This team had gotten to finals for the last two years, so the pressure was on a small bit as the new guy coming in and trying to change things up a small bit and adding a few new things,” Gleeson admitted.

“So, if we fell at the first hurdle or the Leinster final, there could have been some blame my way, but I was happy to take it because I knew the bunch of lads inside and knew when they would die on the field.

He added: “They are not in any way shape or form arrogant off the field. They would do anything for anyone. “The bigger the day the more they want to perform.”

Between his involvement at schools, club, and now inter-county level, Gleeson is seeing first hand what makes this group so special, and one the whole county of Offaly is united behind, making up at least three-quarters of the almost 26,000 attendance at Nowlan Park.

“They have unbelievable hurling ability, from 1 to 39,” Gleeson added.

“Everyone has said it to me for the last twelve months ever since I got involved with Kilcormac that size might catch these lads out, but you have to catch them to take the ball off them.

“The size of the fight in that dog is unbelievable because as soon as the ball hits the ground they are like terriers to it.

“How many balls to you see caught clean in a hurling match nowadays? only three or four, so it’s about winning the break and when these boys win it they are away and gone.

“They are also unbelievable lads to make space for themselves.

“They are used to coming up against big teams now who try to overpower them, but they are happy to match them and out run them, and obviously their hurling takes them the rest of the way.”

Gleeson certainly seems to have the midas touch when it comes to being part of successful teams, having started out with his own native Burgess/Duharra whom he coached to a number of county senior county titles, before moving into the men’s game where in a stint across the Shannon with Smith O’Brien’s won a Clare intermediate title.

His teaching career took him to Scoil Naomh Cormac in Kilcormac for a year where he enjoyed more success, as is now in Mungret who got to a Munster senior ‘D’ final this year, only losing to eventual All-Ireland champions St Mary’s of Newport.

Tony Gleeson is certainly a young man with an incredible coaching pedigree so far and one that Tipperary shouldn’t be too slow about utilising in bringing his talents back home.