Unsung hero Killian Burke helping to drive Cork on
By John Harrington
If Cork win the Liam MacCarthy Cup this year, chances are very few of their supporters will be chanting Killian Burke’s name at the homecoming.
But the Rebels would neither have made it to Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final nor won the Munster Championship without the efforts of Burke and others on the Cork panel like him.
He hasn’t played a minute of Championship hurling but he’s been an ever-present on their match-day panel of 26.
The considerable efforts that he and others like him on the extended panel have made won't be appreciated outside of the Cork set-up, but it most certainly is within it.
Burke and others like Chris O’Leary, Paul Haughney, Dean Brosnan, and Robert O’Flynn would love to have been given more game-time, but that hasn’t stopped them giving their all to the cause in every training session and pushing their team-mates to higher levels.
“I obviously played a little bit more last year than I have this year but it’s testament to the lads that have come in there,” says Burke.
“Our full-back line have been outstanding, I take my hat off to them really. Look, any way I can contribute by pushing them in training every day, that’s it really.
“Every Tuesday and Thursday, I always say is kind of an All-Ireland final for me. You are really trying to push the lads. I’d like to say that our forwards get a big benefit from marking us as well.
“I wouldn’t say there is any less motivation for me to turn up at training. If called upon I know what’s expected.
“I think we’ve developed a massive panel this year in terms of everyone pushing and trying to get us over the line.
“Our training games this year actually have probably been a big difference, they are massively competitive games and that’s always great, everybody trying to get on the panel.”
Despite his best efforts, Burke is unlikely to be able to force himself into team unless someone is injured because the Cork defence has played so well this year.
“I think so, that’s very fair, I’ve experienced that in the last few years,” he says. “We haven’t made a defensive substitution this year and again that’s testament to the lads.
“I’ve said it always, even to the younger lads who are the backs on the panel, it’s not as easy to kind of break into the back line coming on maybe than the forwards.
“It’s more of a specialised position I think. It’s either something is going wrong or somebody is injured if you are coming on.
“But the last thing you want is thinking you are not coming on and then after five or ten minutes getting called down. Look, I prepare for every game as if I’m playing the full 70 minutes, always.
“Everybody is ready to come on and make their contribution. If you look at our games this year a lot of our subs have come on and made big impacts, which is great.”
Cork’s resurgence this year is down to a variety of reasons, but Burke believes the close-knit nature of their extended panel and that collective effort has been central to their progress to Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final against Waterford.
“I think there is a little bit more going right but there are a few core things that have probably changed this year as well," he says.
“I think we are a tight-knit group, we’ve kind of created a club type atmosphere in our team, everybody looking out for one another and it’s brilliant.
“That’s probably the main thing I’d say, much more tightness in the panel this year. Everybody really gets along, on and off the field.”