Saturday 21 September 2019

Elusive Burke continues to punch above weight

Ready for action: Corofin and Galway star Ian Burke is looking forward to the challenge of taking on Ballintuber in the AIB Connacht Senior Football Championship Final on Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile
Ready for action: Corofin and Galway star Ian Burke is looking forward to the challenge of taking on Ballintuber in the AIB Connacht Senior Football Championship Final on Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

It's fair to say that Ian Burke isn't your typical modern-day footballer.

Small in stature, he gives the impression that a stiff breeze would blow him over but looks can be are very deceiving and his explosive performances for Galway last summer lit up a drab championship.

Described by one Twitter fan as "Galway's version of Messi", the pint-sized Burke terrorised a series of defenders with his unique X-factor en route to a first All-Star award.

The 25-year-old isn't conventional in terms of appearance when compared to most footballers these days, but he also doesn't play like your average county man, using his natural strengths of speed, peripheral vision and decision-making to cause havoc with or without possession.

With space regularly at a premium, the darting corner-forward unlocks defences with his quick thinking and, amazingly, he either converted or assisted in one third of the Tribesmen's 2018 championship scores.

Burke - a trader with Geneva Trading in Dublin - never feared that his size would get in the way of inter-county success and he continues to break the mould in that respect.

"I was always smaller than everyone else, so it's nothing new. I just try to go out and play my own game and fit into the system that we play as best I can. I'm happy to do that," Burke says.

"I always try to adapt my game, learn new tricks, and keep in games if being marked tight. Just get on ball, things like that. There's no such thing as a stereotypical Gaelic footballer.

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"They all bring different attributes and skill sets, so it's nice to have a blend of everything. It's healthy for the team too. I just try to bring what I can bring to the set-up.

"When I was growing up in Corofin I was always a smaller guy, but we you focused more on the skill-set anyway: left foot, right foot, handpass, all those kind of skill-set things. I find that does help me out on the field, not spilling ball and things like that. I wouldn't think stature comes against me."

Having helped Galway make huge strides in 2018 including Connacht success and a Division 1 league final appearance, Burke felt Dublin's wrath in the All-Ireland semi-final and knows improvements are needed.

Kevin Walsh recently held trials to unearth more talent and "drive the thing forward" and while Burke knows they are some way off Jim Gavin's all-conquering Dubs, he feels they are moving on the right road.

"Dublin are the benchmark and we're just trying to hopefully improve ourselves and find those extra inches to be competitive against the Dubs. They don't seem to let up, they're a 70- or 80-minute team, they don't seem to hit any bad patches during the game.

"We're just looking to get to a stage where we're competing for 70 minutes consistently throughout a game. They've a phenomenal team there, they've All-Stars all over the place. Look, it's a testament to them.

"They play football the right way I'd like to think. They're a good outfit. That's football, we're just trying to get ourselves up to that level and to try to have lads competing in every position. I think we're not too far off that."

Target

That's further down the line, however, and the immediate target is Sunday's AIB Connacht club SFC final as All-Ireland kingpins Corofin bid for a provincial three-in-a-row.

Having recovered from a rib injury which saw him miss their county final replay win over Mountbellew-Moylough and a semi-final destruction of Roscommon's Clann na nGael, Burke is "raring to go". Mayo's Ballintubber stand in their way and with Cillian and Diarmuid O'Connor in their ranks, Burke will take victory by any means.

"It's a results business and we're just trying to grind out results and if we can do that playing swashbuckling stuff or with a good battle, we don't really mind," he says.

Irish Independent

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