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'My Skill Level At Football Wasn't The Best So I Steered Towards Hurling'

9 October 2022; Donal Burke of Na Fianna during the Go Ahead Dublin County Senior Club Hurling Championship Semi-Final match between Cuala and Na Fianna at Parnell Park in Dublin. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

By PJ Browne Updated
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Last year's Dublin hurling final ended in heartbreak for Na Fianna. In what was the club's first senior decider, they were nine points up against Kilmacud Crokes with the finish line in sight. Crokes fought back to force extra-time, and then outscored a shellshocked Na Fianna by eight points to one in the additional 20 minutes.

"Obviously at the time it was a tough one to take," says Na Fianna's Donal Burke, speaking at a media day for the Go-Ahead Ireland Dublin Senior Hurling Championship final.

"Sure we took the Christmas then, and we had the league starting then. Once the games started back, it's a new kind of journey.

"Different lads come in, different players are there. You just have to move on and you can't be thinking about the past the whole time. We just turned over a page, and we just went at it this year again then."

Proud sponsors of the Dublin GAA Club Championships, Go-Ahead Ireland today hosted a media event with Brian Sheehy of Kilmacud Crokes and Donal Burke of Na Fianna ahead of the Go-Ahead Dublin Senior Hurling Championship final taking place in Parnell Park on the 23rd of September. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

After a shaky group stage which saw them lose to Cuala and Ballyboden St Endas, Na Fianna defeated Plunketts to set up a quarter-final against St Vincents. It was in the knockout stage that they clicked into gear with a five-point victory over Vincents in the last eight, and a seven-point win against Cuala in the last four.

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On Sunday, for the second consecutive year, they will meet Crokes in the final. The two clubs also met in last weekend's football decider with Crokes winning by a point.

"We were delighted with the first half [against Cuala]," says Burke,

"The quarter-final kind of stood to us. Cuala, fair enough, they had the four weeks off. They were probably a bit rusty at the start, so we capitalised on that. And then Cuala are such a good team, they were obviously going to have a purple patch, and when they came, we had to try and ride the storm a bit."

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Five of Na Fianna's starting forward line got on the scoresheet in the semi-final. For Burke, there's satisfaction beyond the forwards simply playing well.

"It's probably a bigger joy that we all grew up together," he says.

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"We’d be very good mates, so that's probably the biggest joy. Obviously because we have that chemistry, we're able to feed off each other. We're all quite close in Na Fianna, we all grew up together.

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"When we left the underage set-up, personally, I found it a big jump from underage to senior, so it took us a few years to find our ground, but we're happy to be competing and I think that's what we grew up doing. We just love competing for the titles and we're delighted to be back in the position to compete again."

Burke isn't sure who planted the seed which has led to the growth of hurling at Na Fianna.

"Personally anyway, my skill level at football wasn't the best so I would have steered towards hurling," he says.

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"But you would have had lads like Joey Boland and Tomo Brady and even Martin Quilty, he was on that team that won Leinster in 2013.

"My older brother too, he would have been playing hurling as well so for me, hurling was always number one in the family.

"I was just lucky that at my age group, there was a good crop of lads who also just loved to play hurling so I just always remember bringing my hurl everywhere.

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"There was always for me hurling and football down there. I'm not sure what caused it but on the hurling side, lads like Tomo and Joey - we would have definitely been looking up to them.

"It would mean a lot [to win a county title]. It would probably mean more to the club than to us. To me, it would be to win it with my friends. Lads I grew up with, that would be the most satisfying thing for me.

"But the bigger picture, I'd say it would mean a hell of a lot to lads like Jimmy Gray who founded the club, he's still coming to all the games.

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"Even the coaches, growing up all the people that were involved with my age group as well... The old teams, the people who are up on the wall that are still helping out with the club, cutting pitches and are still involved. It would mean a hell of a lot more for them. That would be a big motivation for us."

See Also: 'I Am Conscious That I Am The Only One At Kilmacud Crokes'

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