Members of the Burke family will leave south Galway this weekend and head to two different north Dublin destinations with similar goals and aspirations in mind.
This afternoon, at Parnell Park, Eanna and four of his brothers - David, Darragh, Cathal and Kenneth - will attempt to secure a return to the AIB All-Ireland senior club final by beating Cushendall.
Three kilometres away at Croke Park tomorrow their father, John, will be in charge of the Oranmore-Maree side that plays Charleville in the intermediate final.
John was in charge of St Thomas’ when they won the All-Ireland in 2013 and for almost a decade in total before taking on the new challenge.
“He’s kept himself busy anyway, he’s not sitting around wondering what it would be like to be managing us,” smiled attacker Eanna. “He was over us up to last year. 2018 was our first year with our new manager, Kevin Lally. Prior to that he would have been there since 2008 so he was there quite a while.”
The change in management has eliminated the possibility of another father and sons inspired senior success, something Eanna felt sure he’d experience again after his Dad managed them to a breakthrough All-Ireland in 2013.
“Myself and the five brothers were involved back then, Dad managing us, it was probably fairytale stuff really, that you thought was the norm,” he said.
“We came from nowhere in Galway to win the county and that would have been seen as a good achievement in itself. Then we drew Loughgiel in the semi-final who were champions and it took two massive days to beat team. Then we beat Kilcormac-Killoughey in the final.
“Suddenly you’re All-Ireland champions! That was my first year, I was thinking, ‘this is great, it’s going to happen every year’ but it doesn’t work like that in sport. I learned the hard way that it’s grand to get there and lovely to experience but it’s twice as hard to get back there again.
“It’s not that we haven’t put in the work over the last few years, we’ve been there or thereabouts. It just didn’t happen for whatever reason.”
Burke, an insurance official in Galway, was photographed holding his head in his hands after the All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Ballyea in 2017. It was harder to take having already won an All-Ireland and having gotten a taste of how good that felt.
That experience, and the draw with Loughiel at today’s venue six years ago, have been high on his mind during preparations. He nods at the suggestion that while there is a gulf in class between the Galway and Antrim county teams, there is precious little between their best club sides.
“You’re spot on there now, I think at county level we probably have more of a pick and a lot more clubs, a lot more of a hurling population than what they’d have,” said Burke. “At club level, we’ve seen already that what they’re doing is phenomenal. They’ve been in All-Ireland finals, won finals, what they’re doing with the pick they have is incredible.”
Burke, capable of playing in a variety of positions, has been in and around the Galway panel and hopes to use the club series as a shop window to catch Micheál Donoghue’s attention.
He is regarded among the best club hurlers in Galway, though perhaps not the best hurler in his own family - big brother David captained Galway to the 2017 All-Ireland.
“I’ve played championship with Galway, had a few cameos here and there, nothing major,” he said. “There’s still a massive hunger there.
“I know there’s a few more like me in there, players that would be relatively young and hoping to get a few minutes in the league, it would have been massive (to play in Galway’s early league games) but you can’t have it all your own way.
“If you offered me a league or a club championship, I’d take the club championship every time to be honest. But it does bring into question the scheduling of it, you even have the Fitzgibbon Cup going on now. It would be great if the club competition was wrapping up in 12 months.”