Mickey Burke still going strong for Meath
By Cian O’Connell
“I have a massive love for GAA, the sport, and for the county,” Mickey Burke says with trademark honesty.
Still going strong for the Meath hurlers, Burke has delivered in both codes for green and gold teams during the past two decades.
Unsurprisingly, Burke remains as passionate as ever. “On top of that I love staying fit, you are given all the tools at your disposal - strength and conditioning, dieticians, stats,” he adds.
“I love all of that stuff. I've been lucky to play for a long time, I really appreciate and know I'm at the end of the cycle more so than the start, but I don't take anything for granted.
“I still enjoy it, I'm still hugely passionate about it and driven. Once I felt I could contribute and the manager thought I could contribute I said I would go for another year - absolutely.”
There is hope in the air. Seoirse Bulfin’s enthusiasm ensures Meath, motoring well in Division 2B of the Allianz Hurling League, are beginning to believe again. Burke is simply happy to be involved.
“I was asked in by the management at the start of the year, I suppose when I was asked in, I said, yeah,” he states. “Seoirse felt I could contribute and I felt I could contribute.
“They were important things, I won't be wanted in a few years time. So while I was wanted and asked in, I said I would take up the invite, to rock on in for another year.”
Bulfin’s drive and desire is a crucial factor according to Burke. “He is one of these crazy hurling men - fanatical, he just loves it, eats, sleeps, drinks it,” Burke responds.
“He is travelling up from Limerick to us, he was a selector with us last year. He has worked in high performance units, he has obviously been involved with Davy Fitz with Clare and Wexford.
“Things have been going well so far this year, they can't really have gone much better. Of course we have things to improve on, but we have slipped into a league final with a game to play.
"There is a long way to go yet, but it has been pretty positive. Seoirse has been a huge part of that.”
Generating momentum, though, is important. “It is huge for us,” Burke says. “Different counties have different priorities, but for us it is trying to get back up to 2A. We aren't taking our eye off the ball in any way, shape or form.
“We can't because we probably have a little bit of a target on our back at this level. For us to develop is to try to get back up to 2A. It has been good. Four wins out of four, you can only play what is put in front of you.
“We have London away this weekend, we are already guaranteed a league final. We will crack into that and hopefully come out the right side of it, but we are definitely taking nothing for granted just yet. It has been positive.”
Adamant about Meath’s potential, Burke is hopeful that the Royals can develop further in the coming weeks and months ahead of the Christy Ring Cup.
“Good ground work is being done in Meath,” Burke says. “There is a pocket in Meath - south Meath - that is fanatical about hurling, a bit like north Kerry.
“A lot of good work is being done, so we are trying to build for the future. I suppose ultimately not to have this yo-yo effect, up and down the divisions. To be a solid Joe McDonagh team in the future I would say is Meath's ultimate goal I'd like to think.”
Burke, such a highly regarded competitor, has been delivering for Meath since 2004. In the intervening years, new ideas and innovations were always embraced. “I think that is probably one thing that has kept me going for so long,” Burke says.
“I never threw my eyes up to heaven if a sports psychologist came in or a nutritionist came in 10 or 12 years ago. Some lads would hum and haw about it, other lads would have no interest, a few would be interested. I was always interested.
“If somebody told me to eat vegetables all day, I would do that if it was going to get me an extra few per cent. I remember skins and compression tights, all of those things 15 years ago when nobody was doing it.
“I was reading magazines, I was interested in gym work. You need a little bit of luck with injuries, the one per centers that the English cyclists used to always talk about - sleep, anything like that.
“I'm sure it has probably helped me in some way playing for as long as I have, I'm 37 now, I find it hard to say I'm 37, but I'm sure those things have helped me in some way.”
Burke’s sporting adventure continues.