Armagh and St Mary's star Jarlath Og Burns ready for Maynooth University challenge in Sigerson Cup quarter-final
Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup quarter-final: St Mary’s University College v Maynooth University (today, DKIT Dundalk, 2pm)
HIS dad, Jarlath senior, was a Sigerson Cup winner with St Mary’s back in 1989 and Jarlath Og Burns hopes to do the same with the Belfast teacher training college this year.
Up until two years ago, that would have seemed like a long shot but the success of St Mary’s in 2017 – when they swept all before them on the way to the second title in the history of ‘the Ranch’ – reminded everyone, including Jarlath Og and his team-mates, that when a capable and motivated team takes the field anything is possible.
“Winning in 2017 has given us great belief,” said the Silverbridge and Armagh midfielder.
“There’s only two or three survivors from that game but the fact that we know St Mary’s has the ability to produce All-Ireland champions has created an excitement that we still feel part of.”
Like every other third level college, St Mary’s attracts students from far and wide but Burns explained that the “school environment” has helped to break down barriers and gel the players together.
“St Mary’s is different from most other colleges,” he said.
“We’re with each other every day in class and it’s like a school environment in that sense. Club and county don’t come into it because you’re playing with your mates and when you put on that jersey – that’s what matters.
“Playing with players from other counties is what’s special about the Sigerson.”
After seeing off NUI Galway in a free-kick shoot-out in their opener, Tyrone’s Liam Rafferty slotted over the winner, St Mary’s booked their spot in tomorrow’s quarter-final with a 1-15 to 1-10 victory over IT Tralee. Derry’s Shane McGuigan top scored with 10 points on the day.
Meanwhile, Maynooth, managed by former Kildare forward star Johnny Flynn, travelled to the Dub to defeat Queen’s with current Lilywhite star Padraig Fogarty among the scorers in a 0-10 to 0-9 win.
“We’re under no illusions,” said Burns.
“The game is going to be a battle; they have great footballers who are very skilled and they’re balanced across the field.
“They have a couple of key players, but so do we and that’s what makes it exciting going in. Both teams will be well-prepared so now we’re just looking forward to getting out there.”
Burnsm who missed Armagh's draw with Clare in Division Two last Sunday, added: “Sometimes it can be difficult balancing training and college because there’s tremendous focus needed for both,” he said.
“It’s important to stay balanced and that’s not always easy to do but I guess you get used to it and try keep both of those bubbles separate, focusing on each when you need to.”
This year the Electric Ireland GAA Rising Star Awards Football Team of the Year has been launched to recognise the skill and talent displayed in the championship.
“I think it’s a great initiative,” said Burns.
“It offers the opportunity for those who maybe aren’t on their county senior teams to be recognised on an All-Ireland stage and helps boost the profile of the game.
“I’m all for anything promoting the game, and those playing the game at the highest level so I think the Rising Star Awards are a fantastic idea.”