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Mickey ready for dual role


Meath's Michael Burke in action against Offaly's Owen Carroll. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Meath's Michael Burke in action against Offaly's Owen Carroll. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Meath's Michael Burke in action against Offaly's Owen Carroll. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

LOYAL Royal Burke ready to double up on small ball gameWHEN you're a dual player in Dublin or Cork, it's big news. How can you juggle two codes at elite level? Are your managers really happy? What happens when that inevitable first fixture clash looms into view?

When you're a dual player in Meath, maybe it's not such a huge story... primarily because the Royal hurlers aren't just off Broadway, they're off the radar.

But that doesn't lessen the challenge facing Mickey Burke, or the commitment he is ready to embrace in 2014. Where the sceptics might argue "Why do it?", Burke prefers the glass-half-full approach: "Why not?"

Longwood's hirsuted hero has risen to national prominence as a footballer, but he's no stranger to the Meath hurlers, having featured at Christy Ring Cup level for a couple of seasons.

This year, however, he's planning to make a more sustained contribution to the small ball cause.

Football remains his priority – as shown last Sunday, when he lined out for Mick O'Dowd's men in their O'Byrne Cup semi-final against DCU rather than for Cillian Farrell's crew in the Kehoe Cup against St Pat's Drumcondra. But whenever he can this spring, he'll throw in his lot with the hurlers.

"I'm going to go with the two of them," he confirms to the Herald.

"Micko and Cillian had a word – Cillian would have played dual for Offaly himself, and obviously Micko played inter-county football with Meath. So the two of them had a chat and... yeah, happy to give it a lash."


Last year, Burke featured for the hurlers in their Christy Ring semi-final and replay defeat to Down. "I was playing the last couple of years, kinda, but not as much as I'd hoped," he explains.

"I was just playing whenever I could, and I'm hoping to play a few national league games if I can this year as well, help them out.

"Obviously (last Sunday) was a clash, the Kehoe Cup. My priority would be football really, and Cillian understands that and so does Mick.

"I think there are a couple of clashes in the national hurling league... but I'm just going to try and play the two of them if I can."

Cue the inevitable question; where lies his first affection?

"Well my area, to be honest, would be south Meath; right on the Westmeath and Kildare borders. That would be a hurling area, if you're looking at it in Meath, but it's very hard to pick between the two. I love the two of them and, sure look, when you're young and you're able ... if you keep saying you can't do something, you'll never do it. I'm happy to give it a go, injuries providing, and rest and recovery have to be taken into it as well. But sure, look at it, why not?"

Still, for all Burke's heart-on-his-sleeve commitment, he has yet to master the art of bilocation.

Presumably, then, his primary focus this Sunday will be on events in Newbridge rather than Trim. Whereas the latter venue will host the hurlers' Kehoe Cup clash with Wicklow, St Conleth's Park promises to be rocking for an intriguing O'Byrne Cup decider between Leinster's two form teams this January, Meath and Kildare (throw-in 2.0). In their four games thus far, the goals (12) and points (58) have flowed with unseasonal frequency for Meath. Yet Kildare have been even more prolific, and Burke expects Sunday to be a more accurate barometer of where the evolving Royals stand on the cusp of their Allianz League Division 2 campaign.

"A big crowd, a big derby match, two counties bordering each other," Burke enthuses. "I'm not lying, I haven't really seen or heard much of the other results. We've just been focusing on ourselves – I know that sounds a bit cheesy, but that's what we've been doing.

"Our target was to get four (O'Byrne Cup) games, to try and get out of the group stage, and we've pushed on a little bit further, so it's all good at the moment anyway. But early days."

Notwithstanding that cautionary caveat, the 28-year-old has been encouraged by the early-season buzz, fostered in part by the introduction of several promising rookies who have "put their hand up and are really pushing for places," added Burke.

Better known as a half-back or corner-back, Burke himself was handed a new brief against DCU – edge of the square. "I played one championship game there, I think against Offaly a couple of years ago," he recalls.

"Kevin (Reilly) was injured last weekend – and Seán Curran, who's been playing – so the boys just shoved me in full-back, plug a hole more so than anything."

Proof that he'll play anywhere he's asked for Meath, big ball or small.

Meath have rung the changes for Sunday's clash with the Lilies while recalling last year's full-forward line en bloc.

Eamonn Wallace, Stephen Bray and Mickey Newman are all restored to the Meath full-forward line as their manager makes a total of eight changes from the team that blitzed DCU.

MEATH (SF v Kildare): C McHugh; D Keogan, M Burke, C Young; D Dalton, E Harrington, P Gilsenan; C Gillespie, A Tormey; P McKeever, D McDonagh, D Larkin; E Wallace, S Bray, M Newman.

KILDARE (SF): M Donnellan; M O'Grady, M Foley, H McGrillen; D Hyland, E Bolton, P Cribbin; T Moolick, G White; C McNally, E O'Flaherty, S Hurley; P Brophy, D Mulhall, P Fogarty.

TYRONE (SF v Cavan): N Morgan; A McCrory, C Clarke, B Tierney; C McGinley, P Harte, T McCann; N McKenna, D McBride; P Kane, S McGuigan, PJ Lavery; P McNeice, Matthew Donnelly, R O'Neill.

CAVAN (SF): C Gilsenan; J Hayes, R Dunne, K Brady; P Tinnelly, A Clarke, J McEnroe; T Mooney, D Givney; M Reilly, N McDermott, M Lyng; C Mackey, K Tierney, E Keating.