Burke hoping Tipperary can follow up last year’s U21 success

BRIAN BURKE had his own share of heartbreaking U21 football tales to recall as he pointed the car towards Tralee for last April’s Munster decider.

In 1987 he was part of a Tipperary side pipped by a point by Cork and 12 months later Kerry downed them by a similar margin after a replay. Plenty of Tipperary U21 football sides experienced their own disappointment after that until the glorious 2010 success was achieved.

“It was a fantastic occasion and I’ll never forget the excitement when we won that match”, recalls Burke. “I remember going back to the 80’s when I was playing and we lost two finals by a point. That was heartbreaking so it was great to see the boys managing to make the breakthrough last year. They suffered a lot the previous year when a late goal from Cork downed us and you couldn’t have scripted the kind of disappointment they suffered.

“It was a fantastic result given that we were travelling down to face Kerry in their own backyard and nobody was really giving us a chance to win. But I was quietly confident given the pedigree of the lads that they could come through. Having been involved with them as minors, I’d have seen them grow up along. I got to know those players and they’re a great bunch of lads.”

On that night Burke was a spectator in the stands soaking up the feel-good vibes emanating from Tipperary’s triumph. Twelve months on, the former Tipperary senior midfielder will be on the sideline at Fraher Field tonight as a selector to manager John Evans when they begin the defence of their crown against Waterford.

“I was involved with the minor team last year so would have a fair idea of these guys’ abilities. We’ve got a few guys with senior experience now and a number then that were involved on the panel last year. We have lost a couple big names from last year, like Ciaran McDonald and Sean Carey. But we’ve some important players from last year in Peter Acheson and Conor Sweeney still available. We’d be hoping the experience they gained last year will stand to them. We’ve had some promising minor teams and you’d be looking to mix them with the U21’s from last year.”

Still, Burke is aware Tipp have suffered too many setbacks at this level to start becoming complacent. He preaches caution ahead of tonight’s joust with Waterford.

“All the teams are competitive now in the U21 grade in Munster. Waterford have won it before and we’re not thinking past this first round game. I mean nobody would have thought of Tipp winning last year’s Munster final so you can’t really take anything for granted.”

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