Hunterstown desire still Burn-ing strong
ANYBODY who doesn't know who Ryan Burns is by now has obviously been in hibernation since last summer.
No matter what level of football the 18-year-old has played at over the past 12 months, he has been mightily impressive, starring for Louth Minors and Under-21s, Ardee Community School, his club Hunterstown Rovers and latterly the Louth seniors when he sensationally burst the Westmeath net just a few minutes into his debut.
Now the full forward is preparing for yet another challenge as last year's Louth Junior champions Hunterstown prepare for a tilt at the Intermediate Championship.
Traditionally, teams have found it difficult to make a big impression when stepping up to the higher grade, but Rovers proved when progressing all the way to the Leinster Junior final that they have serious potency in attack and also a formidable rearguard.
A relatively kind draw will give them some confidence of getting out of Group C where they face two teams who survived relegation play-offs to retain their place in Intermediate, namely St Mochta's and Naomh Malachi.
Burns is taking nothing for granted, and with all but two of the other Division 2 league teams also in this grade it would be a surprise to see Hunterstown competing for the silverware come final day in October.
It won't be for the want of trying if they don't succeed, though, and the level-headed Burns is excited by the prospect of pulling on the 'other' red jersey in the weeks and - hopefully - months ahead.
'The club is always important as well and it's going to be tough playing Intermediate Championship because we're just coming up from Junior and there's no easy games,' he said.
'The Mochta's seem to be flying in Division 2 and we lost by a point to them earlier in the year, and Malachis are well up in Division 3.
'I remember we played the Malachis last year and won that game to secure our position in Division 2 and they were a physical team then, and come the championship they'll be even more physical.
'Hopefully we'll get a bit of a run, and if we get out of our group it's more or less anyone's game and it's how you perform on the day.
'It would be an achievement just to stay up in the Intermediate Championship, but at the same time we'd be confident enough that we wouldn't just be looking to stay up.
'The league is not going to plan so far, but hopefully we'll get back on track in that as well.'
Inevitably, all eyes will be on Burns whenever Hunterstown are in championship action this summer, and opposition backs will certainly be more wary of the youngster's awesome ability, but he points out that with the likes of Brendan Lennon and Alan Landy also prolific in front of the posts, Rovers' threat is much more wide-ranging.
Last year's trainer Anthony Monaghan has stepped into Tony Finn's big shoes as manager, but faces a couple of headaches in that Christy Bellew Cup-winning captain Paddy Matthews is away in Mexico for the summer, a couple of other players have stayed on in Brazil after going out for the World Cup Finals and Muiris O'Sullivan (finger) is an injury doubt.
However, the likely absentees are partially offset by the breakthrough of two more youngsters to the first team in Niall Carrie and Ryan Ward.
In the meantime, the Intermediate Club Championship must seem like a breath of fresh air for Burns after this year's punishing schedule which also included studying for his Leaving Cert exams.
'It was hectic enough, but whatever was on I just went about my business and I had a lot of help as well,' he said.
'It was, like, drop my here, drop me there, and whatever I've asked it was done for me, mainly by family, but when I ask my friends they've been very helpful too.'
With Louth suffering that embarrassing defeat at the hands of Kildare and going down the back-door route, that debut goal against Westmeath at Cusack Park already seems like a long time ago, but Burns will have plenty more opportunities to make his mark for the Wee County and he won't forget his first year with the seniors in a hurry.
'Obviously I got a bit of attention from making my debut and scoring, and I suppose that would have to be the highlight this year,' he agreed.
'It was great and I couldn't have dreamed of anything better happening than that.
'I had a good runout in Croke Park as well [against Kildare]. There was a bigger crowd than I'd be used to and the pitch seemed a bit bigger, but it was fine.
'Obviously I was disappointed with the result and I just don't know what happened on the day.'