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'He's very professional and dedicated in everything he does' - youngest county boss making waves

At just 32, Wicklow manager Davy Burke has compiled quite the CV.

THE PAST THREE years have seen Davy Burke’s stock rise and rise.

davy-burke-celebrates-at-the-final-whistle1112020 Wicklow manager Davy Burke celebrates the win over Wexford at the final whistle. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Since 2018, he’s delivered the All-Ireland U20 crown with Kildare, the Kildare SFC title with Sarsfields and led Wicklow to promotion from Division 4.

That’s a glittering CV for a man who, at 32, is the youngest manager on the inter-county scene. And he’s only getting going. 

Last weekend, Burke’s Wicklow defeated Wexford for the second time in seven days to seal a path into the Leinster quarter-final, where they’ll face Meath later today.

It’s been quite the journey for Burke, one of the brightest coaching talents in the game.

He suffered two devastating knee injuries, including a torn ACL, MCL and shattered kneecap, at 15 that finished his playing career and left him with a plastic kneecap.

A move into coaching was always likely to follow.

His late father Kieran taught at St David’s in Artane, where he trained a young Stephen Cluxton. Kieran, who passed away in 2003 at just 38, was a highly respected coach, particularly in the women’s game. 

He managed the Kildare ladies footballers and was involved with the men’s side for a period. Kieran and his wife June both served as chairpeople of Kildare ladies football board. 

As a result of their dedication, Burke spent much of his childhood on GAA sidelines.

He got involved with Féile teams in his native Confey before taking over the ladies football job at 18-years-old and guiding them to successive senior titles. He spent two years with the Kildare minor ladies and then moved onto Dublin where he assisted Greg McGonagle with the senior women’s side. 

That tandem won a pair of All-Ireland U21 finals and lost two senior deciders against a dominant Cork outfit. He went on to have spells with Sigerson Cup sides in Maynooth and Trinity College, and the Trinity senior ladies.

Then Burke returned to home club Confey where he guided the men’s team to the Division 1 crown and Kildare SFC semi-finals, both for the first time in their history

He took over the Kildare U20s in 2018. It was a talented team but they weren’t considered All-Ireland contenders. Led by star forward Jimmy Hyland, they defeated a highly-rated Dublin side in the Leinster final and went on to claim a 1-18 to 1-16 win over Mayo in the All-Ireland decider.

davy-burke-celebrates-with-his-niece-lauren Kildare manager Davy Burke celebrates their All-Ireland U20 victory with his niece Lauren. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Burke’s next role brought him to Sarsfields in 2019. The Sash are Kildare’s most successful club and despite having a strong team they hadn’t managed to get past the quarter-finals since their last success in 2016.

The club’s chairperson, Shirley Mulpeter, held no worries over appointing Burke despite the fact he was younger than some of his players.

“It wasn’t about age it was about what he’d bring,” she told The42. “We saw the success he had with the U20s in Kildare and when we sat down with Davy he has a great way about him.

“From my point of view he was very easy to deal with and he always knew what he wanted and was always prepared.

“He just brings a different thing with him. I just keep bringing it back to his professionalism and how prepared he is, that’s exactly what he does.” 

The Kildare championship is a minefield, yet they dramatically beat Moorefield after a replay in the final to land the 25th title in the club’s history.

It was Burke’s organisation and planning that most impressed Mulpeter, in addition to his infectious energy.

“His training sessions are so well structured, the lads obviously knew what they were doing. They responded extremely well to him. He has a very good team around him.

“I know he has now, he also had it in Sarsfields he brings some of his own with him and he had two really good selectors in Sarsfields as well. That brought another level to it as well.

“The team responded very well to him and one thing he did was he wasn’t afraid to bring in youth. 

“We had a fantastic season all round. We won the senior, senior B, the ladies won the championship. We had a fantastic year and the whole club was on a high and a buzz. He was a big factor in that.

“He brought in a strong, professional well-prepared ethos with him. And that’s not to say it wasn’t there with previous managers, but Davy himself everything is so well prepared, even down to the training on the night.

“There’s no going out on the pitch and ‘what are we going to do next?’ He would nearly know what he was doing for the next month.” 

noel-mchugh-with-davy-burke Burke after the Kildare SFC replay win over Moorefield. Source: Tom O'Hanlon/INPHO

Before the county semi-finals, he’d already been appointed Wicklow manager. He was linked with the vacant Kildare job a month earlier, but once Jack O’Connor was available the county board went with the experience. 

However, Mulpeter has no doubt he’s a future Lilywhites boss in the making.

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“I would think so definitely. He’s after doing a great job. We wish Jack well for however long he’s there. I don’t know what the future holds but definitely Davy will be one for the future, absolutely.”

Not that he’ll be looking that far ahead. 

He took over Wicklow at a time when the county is beginning to produce young talent. In 2018, the minors stunned provincial champions Dublin in Leinster. Two players from that side, corner-forward Eoin Darcy and defender Paddy O’Kane, are part of his senior team. 

Prior to the league’s restart, Wicklow were among a number of sides in the hunt for promotion. They hit the ground running with an eye-catching 7-11 to 0-7 beatdown of Antrim, and sealed promotion with a three-point away win over Wexford.

“His success in Wicklow is not a bit surprising,” Mulpeter added. “Obviously it would have been great to have him at Sarsfields for another year but we wish Davy every success.

“Already they’ve moved up a division and I’m sure that’s not the end of it. He’s very competitive and he’ll see them come on even further.”

A week later, they travelled to Wexford and beat them again, this time amid torrid weather in the Leinster SFC opener last Sunday. It was their second championship victory since 2014 and just fifth since Mick O’Dwyer’s departure in 2011.

“We’re a team on the up,” he told reporters afterwards. “That’s what we want to believe.”

As the wind howled and rain poured down behind him, he was asked if he’d mind similar weather conditions for Meath’s visit to Aughrim.

“I’d take a day like this every day of the week, 365 days a year if it keeps us going!” he laughed.

No doubt Burke quickly bunkered down to study Andy McEntee’s Meath ahead of today’s showdown.

A Wicklow win would be a huge shock, but given all he’s achieved in his coaching journey to date, you wouldn’t put it past Davy Burke.

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Kevin O'Brien

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