Cushendall defender Paddy Burke speaks with Brendan McTaggart ahead of Sundays final…
Cushendall and Antrim defender Paddy Burke has been one of the most consistent performers in both maroon and Saffron shirts for the better part of five years. A player who has fully committed to hurling life and he’s reaping the rewards with his performances in 2022.
Equally adept at playing either three or six, Burke helps form part of a formidable Cushendall defence. With his brother Martin and Liam Gillan usually lining out either side of him in the full back line, it’s fair to say you have to earn what you get from that trio and it’s why the concession of two late goals to Loughgiel in the semi-final was very un-Cushendall like. Burke said the Ruairi’s were almost the masters of their own downfall: “We worked well for maybe 90% of the game. We got ourselves into a good position but the sending off put us onto the back foot. We didn’t react well to it.”
Liam Gillan second yellow card seemed to spark a Shamrock revival. Having looked to be home and hosed, Burke and his side were left clinging on: “Loughgiel made the most of our sending off, pushing up and it looked like we had no bodies to recover. They got two fortunate late goals and it was definitely closer than I was hoping for at the end.
“We were definitely reaching for that final whistle. No doubt about it, we were scrambling for them last five or so minutes and there was definite relief when the final whistle went.”
To look for a silver lining from what was close to a dire situation, Cushendall’s championship hopes are still alive and well. They have come through the acid test of facing Loughgiel in the semi final and will be battle hardened for that but Burke mentioned that it showed growth in his side from 12 months ago when they fell at the last four to a late major: “I suppose it (tough match) will help. It wasn’t ideal, far from it to concede the two goals like we did but we’ve been working hard on that to ensure that doesn’t happen again” Burke continued: “We conceded late against Rossa last year and it finished our championship. Thankfully we had a bit of a cushion but the similarities were there, definitely.”
Playing in what will be his seventh county final, Burke knows fine well what he needs to do ahead of Sunday. There’s a time for dealing with the media and there’s a time for business and he told us that the Ruairi’s have been hugely focussed on what lays ahead: “There’s been a sense of business as usual. We’ve been working hard in training with fierce competition for places. It’s our first final since 2019 and to be back there is a good feeling.
“The schools get involved and are a big part of the whole occasion. We had the maroon and white day down there today and it’s brilliant to see the excitement around the kids.”
With the Cuchullains going for four in a row, Burke knows the size of the task that lays ahead for the Ruairi’s. Dunloy’s semi final performance was an eye opener, Burke added: “Dunloy looked good in the semi-final. Over the last couple of years they look like they’ve been timing their run and best form for the knock out stages but it’s up to us to try and stop them.
“I suppose looking at the championship this year and how we’ve played, it is the two best teams that have reached the final but you have to take in to consideration the injuries that Rossa have had this year.
“Dunloy look to be flying and there’s no doubt we have to improve from our game against Loughgiel if we’re going to get anything out of the final but we’ve put the work in and hopefully its enough come Sunday.”