Killian Burke made his debut for the London hurlers two weeks ago, a fortnight after moving to the city. That move came as Burke decided to leave the Cork panel in November after four years.
Q: Whatever about your hurling life, moving to London is a big move for your life in general. When did you make the decision and why?
A: My girlfriend, Emma, has been living over here for the last five years. She’s a professional dancer so the industry is more suited to London and the UK than what’s on offer at home.
We’ve been living apart from each other for over five years and this last year with Cork, I was debating it. I didn’t get as many appearances as I was hoping for and we’d a disappointing end to our club campaign with Midleton. So I made the decision there and then.
I was lucky enough to be called back onto the Cork panel for this year. I just made John [Meyler] aware my decision had been made both for personal reasons, for Emma’s sake, and for my own work reasons. I work for Johnson & Johnson for Depuy and I wanted to stay working for them. The time just felt right.
Q: How are you settling in?
A: It’s been really good. I’m only here a month but it’s a completely different lifestyle, and one I’m getting accustomed to and enjoying. There’s always something to do here. It’s a pretty manic city lifestyle but I like it.
In terms of hurling, it’s not too different. It’s taken very seriously over here. I was surprised in a way with the commitment and passion there is. I’m training with London just as much as I would’ve been with Cork.
The training is as professional as when I was with Cork as well. While I was a bit sick of hurling towards the end of last year, I definitely have the passion back for it since I moved over here.
Q: Just how similar is the training regime?
A: The training facilities we have over here, the way the players are looked after, the commitment that’s going in is all very similar. Even the management and the tactical aspect behind it is top class.
Q: It’s great that’s reinvigorated your passion for hurling. I know last year Cork used the same six defenders every game, didn’t replace them or bring any defenders on at all. Is it as simple as playing a bit more hurling and the change of scenery?
A: Yeah, a bit of both. Last year, I won’t lie, I was disappointed I wasn’t getting more games. I played a lot more the year before and I played a lot of the league last year, but it was a credit to the six lads who were playing that we didn’t need to make a defensive substitution in any of the games.
I’d have had a great relationship with Kieran Kingston and all his selectors. There was no negativity in that. I thoroughly enjoyed playing under them and I’ve good time for John Meyler as well.
The club were very unlucky to come up against an elite UCC team, probably one of the strongest teams to ever play in the Cork championship, and after that, I was a bit down in the dumps about hurling.
But since I’ve come over here, it’s been brilliant to link up with the London lads, they’ve been extremely welcoming to me, they’re all great guys, and I made my debut the last day out against Westmeath - a game we probably should have won against the top team in the division.
Q: Who made the contact between you and London GAA?
A: I kept my head down when I was coming over but I guess word travelled fast once I left my club. I rang John Meyler in November. Then, there was a contact, Tadhg Healy, from the club I play for who reached out to me first.
Tadhg would’ve won a number of All-Irelands with the Cork intermediates and he said there was a guy from Robert Emmets club, Mick O’Dea, who’s also from Cork, who wanted to ring me about the possibility of playing.
Mick’s an extremely passionate man and as soon as he rang me, I was bought in to playing. He explained to me there was a number of Cork lads playing for Robert Emmets and that was all I needed to hear - the opportunity to make some new friends and hang out with a lot of guys from Cork.
I was here probably two days and Fergus McMahon, the London manager, reached out to me and asked me to come training the following night.
Q: The day before the Westmeath game you had your club football debut to make yourself eligible. Was that a Seanie Johnston situation?
A: I probably will play football towards the end of the year but it was a rushed registration game. I actually really enjoyed the game though.
Q: You played the full game so? Not quite the full Johnston!
A: (Laughs) Yeah, it wasn’t a case of handing the slip and coming straight off!
Q: Do you find it an odd experience having to look up the Cork score on the phone?
A: It’s a little strange alright but I do keep quite close to it. I’m still in contact with a number of the players. Conor Lehane would be one of my best friends from home, so I’m on to him nearly every day. I think the league has been quite difficult for them at the moment but I wouldn’t be reading too much into it from their point of view either.
It’s a tricky year this year, people are feeling out what’s the best approach and they won’t be too worried about the league if they win the first championship game. I was involved for four years with the guys and the panel deserves massive results and to do really well this year, and I hope they do.
Q: Did you know Stephen McDonnell would be stepping away from the panel and there’d be a potential space opening up when you made your decision?
A: I don’t think that would’ve had an influence. He was captain of the team and you couldn’t say I was going to be an automatic starter just because Stephen McDonnell stepped away.
There are three or four new fellas who’ve come into the full-back line this year and had the best performances out of a lot of the new lads, so I’d still have had to work hard to get in there. I’ve no regrets in that regard.
Q: Do you still have ambitions to play for Cork?
A: I don’t know how long we’ll be here. We’re both very, very happy here. In the future, who knows? If we did return, I’d be massively interested in getting back in playing with Cork but you never know.
In the meantime, I’m really happy in London. I could see myself here for a number of years, playing hurling and thoroughly enjoying it. We’ll see when it happens, I guess.
Q: You mentioned being disappointed to lose to Westmeath, which shows the standards London are aiming for. What are your aims for the year ahead?
A: I speak for probably everyone on our panel in saying our ambition is to win the Christy Ring Cup.
That’s priority number one. After that, hopefully we can remain in Division 2A of the league by beating Kildare.
Q: Your soccer team, Fulham, have been unbeaten since you moved over, too. You must be their lucky charm!
A: I don’t know about that. They’ve been unbeaten for a good while - unbeaten in 14 - so they’re looking good now.
I used to go a lot even when I lived in Ireland, I used to come over twice or three times a season. But since I’m here, I’m trying to get to every game which is great. Nice and easy for me. It’s a nice relief on a Saturday and there’s great passion in it, similar to the GAA at home.
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