Fintan Burke looks set to follow his cousin David Burke into the Galway senior team and the strength and resilience he will bring has been illustrated by his remarkable recovery from a cruciate injury on St Patrick’s Day to help inspire St Thomas’ to their third county title in four years on Sunday.
The powerfully built 22-year old looked set to make his senior breakthrough with Galway during the summer until he suffered the knee injury in the All-Ireland club final loss to Ballyhale Shamrocks.
But he didn’t dwell on his bad luck and St Thomas’ manager Kevin Lally revealed that Burke made a promise in the dressing room in Croke Park after their loss to the Kilkenny champions in March.
“He got the news in the dressing room afterwards that he had torn his cruciate and he turned around and said to me that he would be back for a county final if we got there.
“What the guy has done to get himself right is unreal … double gym sessions, brilliant around the set-up all year, never anything negative, always driving lads on, an ultra-professional,” said Lally.
Burke, an electrician with the company run by club chairman Colin Burke, spent four months out of work but was determined to give himself every chance of being available if St Thomas’ made the Galway decider.
“It just had to be done,” said Burke, who played most of his underage club hurling in attack before moving to defence for the Galway U20s. “It was always in the back of my mind that I might make it back if we got to a county final. It was just something to work towards, kind of something to get you up in the morning and get you going to the gym.
“People see you doing the cruciate and they kind of forget about you then until you come back, they don’t realise what has to go in … physio three or four times a week. It’s torture, even the mental side of it, you are sitting at home and the boys are going training or going off doing things and you just have to sit at home.
“From when I did my injury I was out of work for four months. You have nothing to do during the day and nothing to do but go to the gym and work away.”
St Thomas’, despite losing their opening round game to the Liam Mellows side that they went onto beat in Sunday’s final for the second year in a row, did enough to advance to the knockout stages.
Burke kept working away but didn’t feature in the quarter-final win over Tommy Larkins or the semi-final victory against Turloughmore but then last Wednesday got the clearance he was looking for over the past few months.
And what an impact he made when he came on in the second half, shooting two points and setting up the insurance point for his cousin Eanna Burke to seal the 1-13 to 0-14 win.
“I went back training after the quarter-final, just praying that the boys would pull through.
“I only got the go-ahead in Santry from my surgeon Ray Moran last Wednesday evening, so it was great to come on.
“The boys just said to go on, give it your all, break some ball. I don’t think they expected me to score but it made it all worthwhile in the end.
“All the hard work of the past few months was worth it,” added Burke.