Hurling & Camogie

Paddy Burke hoping Antrim can get on track in Mullingar

Ruairi Og clubman hoping for improved performance as Glensmen prepare for Westmeath clash

Antrim's Paddy Burke has heaped praise on S&C coach Brendan Murphy Picture: Philip Walsh
Paddy Burke has won Irish News and All-Ireland Club Allstars. Picture: Philip Walsh

THE stakes may have lessened since Antrim’s trip to Westmeath was set by the fixture makers, but defender Paddy Burke says Saturday’s Division One clash is still an important one for the Saffrons.

When the Hurling League match-ups were revealed, the Mullingar clash appeared to be a key one in deciding which Group B team would avoid bottom spot and a relegation play-off.

However, a change in format for the League next year will see the top seven teams across the two groups form a new Division 1A with the remaining counties in a Division 1B.

That takes an element of jeopardy away from Saturday’s encounter as both teams try to get off the mark having lost their first three matches.

Antrim go into the game on the back of a chastening loss to Galway last time out and Cushendall man Burke says Antrim need to put the “harsh lesson” against the Tribesmen behind them quickly and find some form and momentum.

“It’s a big game for both teams,” he said.

“We’re hoping we get a performance because we’ve been a bit inconsistent this year and we need to find a bit of consistency towards the end of the League and then carry that into the Championship.”

Antrim conceded an injury-time goal to lose to Dublin by a point in round two but lost their way against Galway at Corrigan Park the weekend before last. An early goal from Jason Flynn sent the Tribesmen on the way to a 25-point win.

Antrim Concede a second goal against Galway during Sunday’s Allianz Hurling League Roinn 1 game at Corrigan Park in Belfast.
Antrim v Galway Hurling Antrim lost by 25 points against Galway at Corrigan Park. Picture: Colm Lenaghan

“That just highlighted the level you’re at in Division One,” said Burke.

“If you’re not on it every day there can end up being a big scoreline in it and it (the Galway result) highlighted to all of us that when we take the field we have to be on every day or these things can happen. It was a harsh lesson.

“But when you’re playing at this level you have to be able to move on quickly. Individually and collectively, you have to have that mental toughness to get over it and look at what you could do better.

“You take that into training and go at it in the next session so you don’t mull over it for too long. That result against Galway wasn’t a true reflection of where the group is at – when a couple of things are off on one day a scoreline like that can happen. It’s up to us to correct it this weekend.”

After suffering their own hiding at the hands of Galway – a 31-point defeat in their opening match – Westmeath competed much better in their subsequent games, losing to All-Ireland champions Limerick by six and Tipperary by seven.

“Westmeath are a brilliant team,” said Burke.

“They’re experienced in Division One and they’ve had some very competitive games this year so it just shows the level Division One is at. Going down there we’ll find out a wee bit more about ourselves and hopefully we can put a good performance together.”

Burke is currently on a career break from his job as a software developer and is studying for a Masters degree in Performance Coaching on a GPA scholarship at Setanta College in Thurles.

“I was comfortable in IT,” he explains.

“But in terms of what I really wanted to do, it probably wasn’t in line. I thought I would try and explore what was out there and this Masters came along at the right time. I had done the Jim Madden Leadership Programme through the GPA and off the back of that I was thinking: ‘I’m really not using any of my strengths at all here (in IT) so I explored what I do like to do and I was lucky enough to get a scholarship on it.

“My job let me take a career break so that’s where I’m at.”

An Irish News Allstar last year, Burke was named in the 2023/24 All-Ireland Club Allstar select this week. Ruairi Og’s attack-minded defender was outstanding as his club came within a whisker of an All-Ireland final. Burke was among the scorers but the Ulster champions lost a nerve-jangling semi-final to O’Loughlin Gaels of Kilkenny by a single point.

“It’s nice to get, but I’d much rather we had got over the line against O’Loughlin Gaels,” he said.

“When you’re at that stage of the All-Ireland with your club you want to win it. It’s nice individually (to get an Allstar) but I’d swap it in the morning for an All-Ireland medal. Hopefully we’ll get there next year.”