Twenty years, is a very long time in any individual’s journey through life. And1989 seems like a different planet compared to some of the advances and negatives that we have experienced in the country over the past two decades. Cork won the All-Ireland football championship that year, whereas Mayo will feel that they should have if Anthony Finnerty’s genuine goal opportunity had flashed into the net. How foot-balling history would have changed then, as John O’Mahony would probably never have left his native land to join Leitrim and then Galway had they won that joust. It was also the year of the famous “Keady Affair” in hurling. Names like Pat Fox, Larry Tompkins, John Kerins, RIP, T.J. Kilgannon, the Bonnars, Willie Joe Padden and the only man to win a senior football and hurling All-Ireland in the same year - Teddy McCarthy - were idols to look up to and the Irish soccer chant of “Ole, Ole, Ole” was only in its infancy.
Sports stars like the men mentioned above inspired many youngsters around the country and some of them are still following in their footsteps - playing and winning titles at the top level. Corofin stalwart and wing-forward Trevor Burke is one such example. Burke will go into the fray with his club again this Sunday two decades after he made his senior debut in a county semi-final, at the tender age of sweet sixteen. Twenty years later, he is still going strong and hopes to collect his ninth senior county medal with his club at Pearse Stadium this Sunday afternoon when they take on the highly rated Cortoon Shamrocks who are inspired by former all-star and double All-Ireland winner with Galway Derek Savage in the Galway county final. Burke won his first senior award in 1991 against a star studded Salthill side and two years ago in 2006 he annexed his eighth medal when defeating Caltra in a county final.
So what’s the secret of his longevity?
He takes up the story - “I have been lucky enough to have avoided any serious injuries which can finish a lot of careers when guys get a bit older. I did hurt my back when I was 23, however I did a lot of core work to try and get over that problem and while it is still sore on and off, I am nearly immune to the pain from it now”. He grins and adds - “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. And I am delighted to be still involved. From a selfish point of view it is a great way to keep the weight down and like a lot of ex-footballers, - he smiles and nods in the direction of my mid-rift - I have a tendency to balloon if I don’t keep myself in reasonable shape”.
Another part of his success is that he always keeps himself in reasonable shape. During the close season with GAA he plays indoor soccer and lines out with the local soccer team.
He smiles easily and takes up the story - “You have to keep the engine ticking over and if you take a few months off completely, it can be very hard to get back the following year. You have to mind yourself in every sense and take care of your body and pace yourself. When you have been around a while, you learn to time your run”. Three other major advantages for Burke are that he lives near the pitch which allows him to leave home and be on the field five minutes after leaving home. Secondly he has in the main worked in Galway city with Merit Medical most of his working life which cuts out the long commutes from the likes of Dublin or Cork that finish many a club career. And most importantly his wife, Angela supports his playing career. They have two young children, Emma who is two and a half and Aoife who is one. “Without Angela being so supportive, it would be practically impossible to keep going. It can be difficult to keep everything going with both of us working full-time, however unless your partner supports you, it would be impossible”.
Most commentators would consider Burke one of the very best wing-forwards in the county during the 1990’s and he was on the Galway panel for a few months under John O’Mahony in early 1998. Has he any regrets about not being involved that September?
As always he is extremely candid in his response. “No. Not really. I pulled out of the panel in the spring and I don’t lose any sleep over it. These things happen and that’s life. Its water under the bridge now and it allowed me to give a greater effort with the club, which is perhaps one of the reasons why I am still involved.” Burke has played in ten county finals and only lost two so he knows what is required to get over the end line this weekend. “Cortoon are a very fine side. They have a super work-rate all over the team and we will have to be at our very best to beat them. The only thing that matters to me is that next Sunday we have another county title back in the club. You would love to be on the starting fifteen, but if you’re not, you have to accept that and try and do your best for the team if you get the call-up.” Win or lose next Sunday, to be still playing senior football twenty years after your debut is a tremendous achievement and one that should be applauded.* The Galway county final is being shown live this Sunday on TG4 with coverage starting at 3pm.