Burke expecting tough test from Kilkenny in Wild Geese Trophy
By John Harrington
The surroundings might be unfamiliar, but Galway hurler Niall Burke is expecting a predictably ferocious challenge from Kilkenny in tomorrow’s Wild Geese Trophy clash in Sydney, Australia.
Galway had the upper hand on the Cats in League and Championship this year but the memories of many sore defeats to Kilkenny are still fresh in Burke’s mind.
“For sure," said Burke. "When I was coming up they were always the team that I looked up to and we always had huge amounts of respect for them and at times were wondering what we had to do to get by them.
“It's a game you always look forward to because you always know they're going to go as hard as they can. When you beat Kilkenny, that's when you know things are going well.
“They'll always be hard, they'll always be physical, and I'm sure it will be no different on Sunday.
“Silverware isn't easily come by and both teams are mad to get their hands on the Wild Geese trophy. You only get so many opportunities throughout the year, there are only three or now four trophies on the line and it would be nice to start off the season in the right manner.”
It’s also a chance for the Tribesmen to move on from their All-Ireland Final defeat to Limerick.
There was only a point between the teams in the end, but for much of that match Limerick looked the fresher, sharper team.
Galway had played eight matches in 14 weeks to get to the Final as both the Leinster Final against Kilkenny and the All-Ireland semi-final against Clare went to extra-time, but Burke doesn’t believe fatigue was a factor in their defeat on the day.
“I wouldn't put the defeat down to a lack of freshness,” he said. “Look, you can look at it in a lot of different ways but on the day Limerick fully deserved it.
“We were obviously gutted, we would have loved to have won another All-Ireland but at the end of the day there's nothing we can do about it at this stage.
“Maybe it gives us that added bit of hunger and incentive for next year, for 2019.”
Burke is 27 now and, like a good chunk of this Galway team, he’s very much in his prime as a hurler.
2018 might have ended in disappointment, but there’s every reason to believe that the Tribesmen will be one of the leading contenders again for Championship honours in 2019.
“Yeah, we're certainly very positive about it,” he said. “Obviously experience doesn't win anything. There's a good balance of youth there as well and you don't know if you've got that balance right until later on in the year.
“There's a great group of guys there and everyone is driving each other on to get that one per cent out of each other. Hopefully now we'll hit the ground running and it will be an enjoyable year ahead.
“There's nothing between any of the top teams on any given day. You have to be at the top of your game at all stages.
“We had two draws this year and it goes to show you have to take your preparation and recovery to the top level in order to get the benefit.”