Burke ready for next challenge

‘Our lads will not be taking too many backward steps… we are going to meet them head on’

Roscommon were one of the last counties in the country to appoint a new senior football manager for this current season. When the name Davy Burke was floated as a possible successor to Anthony Cunningham, few local GAA supporters knew who he was. I was one of those who had heard of him as I have plenty of ‘spies’ in County Kildare who were able to tell me that Burke was a young, ambitious coach and would make a very good choice. The rest, as they say, is history.

The youngest team manager in the country set about his task with relish. His first priority was to make Roscommon competitive in Division One – and for the team to shed its ‘yo-yo’ tag after years of being promoted and then relegated at the first opportunity. He has achieved both of those aims, and in style too. Now ultra-competitive, Roscommon have comfortably retained their Division One status.

Another priority of Davy Burke and his equally youthful coach Mark McHugh was to bring young players into the squad. They have been successful on that note too, with the introduction of lads like Conor Carroll, Daire Cregg, Robbie Dolan, Ben O’Carroll, Colin Walsh and Paul Carey.

The next priority is to challenge with the very best teams in the championship itself. That quest begins on Sunday at MacHale Park in Castlebar against Mayo, the newly-crowned league champions.

When I spoke to Davy Burke at the start of this week he began by briefly looking back on a memorable league campaign.

“It was a great league for us. To finish with eight points on the board was excellent. We would certainly have taken that before we started. It was very important to have beaten Donegal to get back on the winning trail after losing three in a row. It was good for morale”.

Tadhg O’Rourke is now out for the season after suffering an achilles injury against Donegal.

“Unfortunately Tadhg’s season is over. He is a huge loss because he was our vice-captain and a real leader in the group. But Conor Daly and Eddie Nolan are back in full training and are available, and Daire Cregg has recovered from his injury, so that’s all positive”.

Burke agrees that their league win against Galway in Croke Park last Sunday will give Mayo huge momentum ahead of the championship.

“They will be huge favourites on Sunday. They are the Division One champions and were the best team in the league this year. They also have a very strong squad. You can see the impact that their subs had on Sunday, the likes of Tommy Conroy and others. Mayo have a very exciting team. Galway had a very good defensive record but Mayo opened them up on Sunday so they will be difficult to beat”.

Despite the fact that Roscommon will be underdogs, Davy Burke says that everyone in the Roscommon camp is relishing the trip to Castlebar. “Everyone in our group is really looking forward to this clash. Mayo are probably the number one team in the country right now but we will prepare well and go down there and have a cut at them. Our lads will not be taking too many backward steps on Sunday…we are going to meet them head on”.

Burke says that the work ethic of the Roscommon players is top class and is contributing to the great atmosphere in the squad. “The lads are all working hard and that always adds up to a great spirit”.

Roscommon have proven in the league that they can compete with the top teams in the country. Their manager notes that any game Roscommon lost, and almost all they won (bar the Donegal one) involved a tight margin.

“On Sunday it will be the same and hopefully in our favour. Mayo will be the hot favourites after winning the league, and after their overall league campaign. But we are very competitive and we are very hungry and this is a game we want to win”.