‘This is a huge game’ – Burke

Despite holding the reins with Roscommon senior footballers for the second year, one might forget sometimes that Davy Burke is only 36 years of age. He is not much older than a number of players who will play in this year’s All-Ireland senior football championship. However, despite his youth, the Kildare man is an experienced manager with club, college and county, and his enthusiasm and passion for what he does always shines through.

He loves the big occasion and they don’t come much bigger than a home provincial semi-final against your biggest rivals, Mayo.

Roscommon may have had a poor league campaign but Davy Burke has already parked that and is now looking forward to the championship, and this game against Mayo in particular.

When we spoke earlier this week Davy first reflected on a chaotic league campaign. “As a group we finally got a chance to breathe after the Derry game. We were obviously very disappointed to get relegated, but the seven games in nine weeks came thick and fast and it was great to have a few days to relax for the whole squad and (to) clear our heads,” he said.

“It was a frustrating league campaign. We certainly didn’t want to be relegated, but look, the league wasn’t our sole focus this year.

“Last year we came in and had to hit the ground running and we put a big emphasis on our first couple of games against Tyrone and Armagh. We got points on the board early on and we got the bounce of the ball in terms of luck too. We have not got any luck so far this year at all. Hopefully that will come.

“We were frustrated with some of our performances but I honestly think we are getting better and the first 50 minutes against Derry was the best football we have played this year,” he added.

Burke says that people will see a much better Roscommon team when they have a full squad to choose from. “When we get our best 20 players out on the field it’s a completely different situation. We used 34 players during the league and the reality is that Roscommon simply do not have 34 players capable of playing Division One football,” he said.

So what’s the injury update prior to this big game against Mayo? “Evan Flynn is out for the rest of the season with a serious shoulder injury and Cathal Heneghan won’t be ready for the Mayo match, but we hope to have him for the All-Ireland series. Apart from that we have a clean bill of health. There are a few of the  U-20s doing well too so it’s good to have an almost full squad to pick from”.

While many people will feel that a loss to Mayo would not be a major blow, Burke was emphatic when asked about preparations for the game.

“Oh this is a very important match. There is no point in playing it down. Mayo are massive rivals. This is what I love about doing this job… the build-up to these big games, the atmosphere, and everything else that’s involved. That’s what keeps me happy driving up and down the road every night. I love it I have to say.

“This is a huge game back in Hyde Park. Four or five weeks ago we would have been very disappointed with our second-half showing in MacHale Park (in the league) but let’s see how Sunday goes”.

The Roscommon manager says that Mayo’s game in New York will stand to them. “Mayo have played a championship game and regardless of the quality of the opposition they got a  chance to go away for a few days together, which is a bonus for them. As far as I can see they are injury-free too so I am expecting them to come in full force against us”.

He concluded: “Dr Hyde Park has been redeveloped and fair play to the County Board on having the new  stand ready for the game… there will be a massive crowd and a great atmosphere. I have to say I can’t wait for it. We will give it everything and we know how much Roscommon people love to beat Mayo and we will be trying everything we can to achieve that on Sunday”.