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Burke is basking in brilliant run for St Thomas’

By DARREN KELLY

“THEY enjoy it!” stated the man credited by many for starting St. Thomas’ on their historic journey that could yield a second All-Ireland senior hurling title on Sunday.

“That’s probably the biggest most important word of all is enjoyment.  You have to enjoy it.  If you don’t enjoy it, you don’t do it.”

When St. Thomas’ were crowned All-Ireland champions on St. Patrick’s Day, 2013 following a 1-11 to 1-9 victory over Offaly’s Kilcormac Killoughey, they were managed by Castledaly’s John Burke.

The former Galway minor hurler had six sons involved (Kenneth, Seán, David, Cathal, Darragh and Eanna) and recognised the talent coming through from the club as far back as the under-12 group from 2002.

“There was just something about that bunch of players,” said Burke during the week. “They came together and they were special. They really gelled together.

“And we were lucky enough that we had a few older guys. We had Richie and Robbie and Ger (the three Murrays), and Enda Tan (Tannion) and Kenneth.  These guys were there and they were serious men at the time. When these young guys came in then, it just brought it that little step further.

“We just had to keep them going, keep them on the right track. Thank God they did and they made the breakthrough in 2012. But no way could we see what was coming down the road, the success they’ve brought to us here the last number of years.”

St. Thomas’ had only just won their first county title against Loughrea in 2012 and needed a replay to get past Antrim’s Loughgiel Shamrocks in the All-Ireland semi-final before their greatest day so far in Croke Park.

“On the way to Dublin and it started snowing,” recalled Burke who also coached Oranmore/Maree to All-Ireland intermediate success in 2019.  “We were saying ‘was this going to go ahead or what’s going to happen?’

Pictured: St. Thomas’ team manager John Burke celebrates with his son Kenneth after defeating Loughrea in the 2012 Galway senior hurling final. Kenneth is the current team supremo as St Thomas’ chase a second All-Ireland club title on Sunday. Photos Joe O’Shaughnesy.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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