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Keeping the faith for Kiltimagh

Keeping the faith

Peter Burke can’t wait to go back to Croke Park

Mike Finnerty

“ALL-IRELANDS fly by. Before you know it you’re in the dressing-room and you’ve either lost, or you’ve won. You only get one chance. Some lads don’t even get one chance. But the main thing is that you give it your all, you give it 100%.”
These were the words of Peter Burke (33) last week as he looked ahead to Kiltimagh’s All-Ireland Junior Club Final against Castlegregory of Kerry at Croke Park next Sunday.
It will be a third All-Ireland final for the former Mayo goalkeeper but this one will be very different to his big days with the county in 1997 and 2004.
Firstly, his wife, Sheila, and children, Alanna (5), Fionnoan (3) and Cariosa (3) will all be there to support him, and Kiltimagh. Plus, after stepping back from club football after the county Intermediate final in 2007, experience has taught him to cherish these occasions now.
“I didn’t think I’d be going back to Croke Park again as a player,” the self-employed roofer told The Mayo News last week. “I thought my days out there would be for Six Nations games!” he laughed.
“For me, it’s great that my family, my wife, and my kids will be there too. I stepped back from the club at the end of 2007 because we had young children and I was busy at home and at work. Then, after we got relegated at the end of 2008, the club asked me to go back.
“I missed the craic with the lads and the kids were that little bit older too,” he explained. “In the long summer evenings, there wasn’t a lot else to do. I played in a squash league in Knock last year which kept me sharp and, in fairness to Mick [Regan] and the lads, they’ve been very lenient in relation to training all year.”
When Peter Burke, and fellow veterans Tomás Morley and Adrian Forkan returned last year, it was for one reason only. They wanted to help Kiltimagh get back on their feet, get back to where they belonged.
“Our main aim, all along, was to get out of Junior and hold our own in the league,” said Burke. “To win the championship, and get promoted in the league, was a great achievement for the club.
“It happened because we had young lads fighting for places, the guys in their mid-20s pushing hard too. We weren’t talking about All-Irelands at all. But we want to win this now, finish the year on a high. It would be lovely to win an All-Ireland medal at last, and get to climb those steps in the Hogan Stand.”
All year long Burke, the goalkeeper, has travelled to games from Cloondace in Knock with Morley, the midfielder, and Forkan, the super sub’. His admiration for both goes without saying.
“Tomás has had an outstanding season. Everybody knew what he was capable of but he’s had niggling injuries that’s he struggled to shake off. He’s been a huge addition to us this year and, without him, I don’t think we’d be talking about an All-Ireland final now.”
And Forkan? “He kicks those spectacular points at training too,” smiles Burke. “I think he does it for show half the time!”
Peter Burke was 18 years of age when he played his first game with the Kiltimagh senior team in 1995. Two years later he lined out in a county final and played in an All-Ireland senior final, and next weekend that kind of experience may be invaluable to his club colleagues.
“We’ll be staying in Dublin the night before and that’ll be new to a lot of the lads so if I can give them any advice on that, I will.”
And, win, lose, or draw, what about next season? “I’ll probably be back playing football,” he said. “If I can stay injury-free. The body doesn’t always go where the mind tells it but we’re hanging in there.”

All-Ireland JFC Final
Kiltimagh v Castlegregory

Sunday, February 14, Croke Park at 2pm