Thursday 14 December 2017

Mickey Burke targets 'momentum' for Royals' back-door bid

Mickey Burke has learned a lot from watching Enda McNulty. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Mickey Burke has learned a lot from watching Enda McNulty. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

In the days after Meath's defeat to Kildare, Mickey Burke got it harder than most.

Looking out his window in the Meath village of Longwood, he could see Kildare jerseys trickling over the border and into the family pub downstairs. That's part of life hard on the front line of county boundaries. Lose to your neighbours and they'll let you know all about it.

"I think an awful lot about football and training, sure you are giving your life to it as all the boys are and you are down in the dumps for a couple of days and you look out the window and you see boys going in downstairs to the pub," Burke says. "I was hiding for a day or two."

It mattered little that Burke emerged from Tullamore with some credit in the bank. He had picked up one of Kildare's better players in Niall Kelly and forced him to the edge of the game.

Kelly didn't score and Burke managed a point. It was a good day on a personal level but that means nothing when your team have been comprehensively outplayed.

"I think I'm gone by the days of looking out for myself," Burke reflects. "I did have a duty to snuff him (Kelly) out, wherever he went. Just try and annoy him, irritate him or do whatever I had to do.

"If I played bad and Meath won, that'd mean more. It would. No, he's a good footballer and it was nice to do well on him. But you'd rather be winning the games. I know that I'm never going to get much praise anyway. You're a corner-back. You're in there to be roasted.

"You're man-marking lads. I always remember looking at Enda McNulty and it was weird. I used to love Enda McNulty because he just used to go out and hound lads for an hour.

"The best players in every game, corner-forwards. And he never got an praise for it because you're in there to be cleaned really. But yeah, I'd rather be winning the games to be honest with you."

Meath have been licking wounds since that chastening evening in Tullamore.

Kildare were superior in pretty much every facet of play but Burke reveals that a video session showed the Royals did themselves no favours. It revealed that 0-7 in the first half came directly off Meath turnovers and errors.

Contact

"If you're bringing the ball into two or three lads, if you're running into contact, you know, you've got to be a bit cuter with where you're going into contact with the ball. You're going to get stripped against nearly any inter-county team.

"Preparation had went well, we felt good going into it. No excuses about the weather or anything like that, Kildare were just better on the night."

It was a setback to the project Andy McEntee has taken on but Burke is determined to look on the bright side, namely that they get a chance to redeem themselves this weekend in the back door.

However, Meath's qualifier record is poor. They haven't won a game in the back door since 2011 when they beat Galway but since then Kildare, Laois, Armagh, Derry and Tyrone (twice) have sent them packing for the summer.

On Saturday night they welcome Sligo to Navan for what will be the first championship meeting between the sides. And Burke is clinging to hope that should they win in Páirc Tailteann, they could gain some traction as they did in 2009.

"It's our first game at home since 2011 against Kildare," he says. "That won't win us the game or anything but it is nice to be playing in Navan in front of a home crowd and maybe we can try and get a bit of momentum like 2009.

"I remember '09 it was great you were playing week on week and you are recovering and then you have a game again. It's what players want, game, game, game. Hopefully we can build up a bit of momentum but we are genuinely not looking past Sligo first and foremost. It would be interesting to see if we got a couple of wins in these qualifiers, where it would bring us. We have to just try and get over the line.

"For the last few years it's just been three games. Two games in Leinster and then get knocked out in the first round of the qualifiers and it's very hard to take.

"It's not good enough as a Meath footballer for the effort that you're putting in. You need to be getting more than three championship games in a summer. We're hoping to get a big of momentum and see where that takes us."

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