Sustainable promotion is key for Burke
Meet the new Wicklow boss
WICKLOW’S new football manager Davy Burke was in Aughrim on Sunday last to witness two very entertaining battles between Dunlavin and Kilcoole and the thriller between Blessington and AGB in the Senior.
In between those games, the Confey native agreed to sit down and have a chat about his life in the GAA and what brought him to the Garden County and what his hopes and ambitions are with this Wicklow team that failed to deliver under John Evans.
‘Why Wicklow? It’s Division 4 football. I think it’s a competitive level of football. I think a bit of organisation and structure can go a very, very long way at that level. There’s also a couple of decent young teams that Kevin (O’Brien) has had in the last couple of years. I had first-hand experience of one of them when I was managing Kildare, so I see that there’s definitely potential coming through there.
‘This year with the likes of Derry going up out of Division 4, too, it’s very, very competitive and open league there I would say.
‘For a variety of those reasons I’m just mad to get stuck in.,’ said Davy.
It becomes very clear very quickly that Davy Burke is a man with an eye for detail. His progression through a variety of teams and the success that has followed him suggests that he leaves no stone unturned in searching and chasing the very highest standards possible.
Having only recently turned his attention to Wicklow, what are his thoughts on the county team.
‘I haven’t been keeping that detail of knowledge, but I have been watching it more and more as the interest grew in it. There’s 100 per cent more room for improvement. Obviously, last year in Netwatch Cullen Park they ran Kildare close so there’s huge room for improvement and with the bit of youth coming through as well can push the Senior boys on as well, especially if they’re getting decent coaching and everything else, they’ll seamlessly fall into the Senior team as well.
And what can he bring to the set up himself?
‘Hopefully my experience, I’ve a pretty good level of experience. I would pride myself on organisation, structure, really getting lads bought in, and getting lads playing to a certain type of plan, whatever that plan may be, it’ll vary. Obviously, there’s a generic structure that you’ll get to play but you’ll tinker and tailor that depending on what outfit you’re coming up against.
‘I would feel that I’m a very organised person, I think players can really buy into that because there’s lives outside of this, there’s families outside of this. If you know what you’re going to be doing for the next month or five weeks I think it’s easier. And me personally, I can go home to the wife or whatever it might be and say, ‘this is our plan for the next six weeks, all those days off, they’re off and they’re guaranteed to be off. I tend to find things like that, as an example, work really well for players, management, backroom, for everybody, and we can do as little as possible last-minute changes to disrupt everything. So, organisation I think would be a huge one and you’d be surprised how much that’s lacking in some places.
‘I think I’m very much in touch to what the modern-day player wants and needs. There’s a balance between the older style and the newer style and I think I have a fine balance between the two of them. Whereas I think some coaches might be gone mad into the new style and all the science behind everything which is very much important but there’s also a huge aspect of the older school that is very important as well. I would like to think that I’ve got a nice balance in between the two and there’s a necessity for the newer model but also for the older model.
‘One of my biggest strengths, I believe, is that I can kind of think similarly to a player. Even during the year, we might have a pitch session scheduled or a gym session scheduled, whatever we might have scheduled, but I might be able to change that where it might not be appropriate. You might be coming in on the back of a win or a loss, whatever you are, and I might just think I’ll switch that to something else. I believe I can understand, because, what are you looking at now, lads are anywhere between 18 and 31 or 32 (years of age), generally, that’s what you’re looking at, obviously there’s a few outside of that. So, I like to believe that I can think more like those guys and generally happy and a happy team is a more productive team, you know yourself,’ he added.
Davy played with Confey as a youngster but picked up a bag knee injury at 14 and then shattered his kneecap at 15, bringing an end to his career. Fortunately for Wicklow, as Davy himself explains, that’s the reason why he is now the new Wicklow Senior football manager.
‘Never much good (as a player), he said jokingly. ‘I was alright. I picked up my first knee injury at 14, cleared it up and then shattered my knee at 15. Actually, I have a plastic kneecap, so finished since I was 15, so there’s not a very long-winder answer to this one.
‘That’s ultimately why I’m sitting here today, because from 15 I would literally have got involved in our Féile team and went on and on from there into ladies football and wherever else I went. That’s why at a young enough age I’m here, because I finished early and it’s in the family and you had no choice but to go to the pitch. Just because I couldn’t train myself didn’t mean I couldn’t get up and learn. I think I was the youngest ever Award 1 level coaching recipient, I think I was 17, so all that kind of ties in then,’ he said.
We asked Davy to take us on a road trip of his coaching experience.
‘I didn’t manage the Féile team but the first proper gig I had was in 2008, I would have taken the Senior ladies in my club, actually, and we actually done quite well, won two Senior titles ina row, first time ever, and actually that team has gone on to dominate ladies football in Kildare, very close to a good Fox/Cab team there in Dublin, so they’re a very good team.
From that I got involved in the Kildare Minor ladies for a few years. From there, I moved into assistant manager with the Dublin Senior ladies where we were two years in a row in All-Ireland finals against probably the best female team of all time in the Cork ladies.
‘I was also involved in Maynooth University with Sigerson football, Trinity with Sigerson football, Trinity Senior ladies. Then I went back and managed my home club, Confey, for two years in 16/17 and we had decent success with them as well. We’d be a small parish. Leixlip would be a big town but there’s two clubs in Leixlip, and we’d be struggling for numbers at underage, but we’d have a very competitive Senior team, but now there’s a couple of retirements coming and it’s just hard numbers wise.
From there I went into the Kildare under-20s and had a reasonably good year with them (won the All-Ireland title) and from then I went to Sarsfields Senior footballers who I’m still involved with and we’ve a big game next Saturday, and now I’m here in Aughrim,’ he added.
If Davy likes organisation in his management style and career, then it comes as no surprise that it’s the same in his professional life.
‘I work in Dublin City Centre, I manage seven or eight properties, they’re privately owned but they would be leased out of Dublin City Council, so they’d have all sorts of different tenants from couples to families to long-term rentals and I would manage them from day to day. It’s busy enough day, busy enough week every week. I enjoy the logistics and all that sort of thing. For any parties I’m designated to organise all that sort of thing. I’d be very particular. I’d like things to be done right, you see, so they’d know I’d be giving out if it’s wrong.
‘It’s busy but I love being busy. I like being on the go. You’ll see my style on the sideline, you’ll hear me before you’ll see me. I’m always buzzing around the place. My coaching would be very upbeat,’ he said.
The big issue for Wicklow is getting out of Division 4. Without promotion the supporters will feel there is little room for hope or optimism and this prevailing air of negativity and apathy in the county will never be shifted. Davy Burke agrees wholeheartedly that promotion is key, but he adds that being able to maintain life in Division 3 is just as important.
‘Absolutely. With the talk about championship structure, that’s very much secondary in my mind. It’s all up in the air for everybody. Division 4 and promotion is absolutely front and centre for me. Wicklow need to get out of Division 4 to be playing at a higher level of football, a more competitive level of football, and Division 3 is that. So, the key for me would be get out as soon as possible, but you need to maintain that.
‘There were different counties who came up recently and went straight back down again. For me, obviously year one, bang, let’s get out of Division 4, but you have to be in a position to be able to maintain it. So, if it took two years, then get promotion and in the third year you stay in Division 3, I think that would be a bigger success than promotion in the first year and coming straight back down.
‘The only thing about that, and you asked me why I’m here, if we were to get out this year, for example get promoted this year, then you’d hope that a couple of those younger guys would be a year further on, more developed, better conditioned, etc, etc, etc, to maybe link in and push you on again. It’s all about Division 4, it has to be.
What are his thoughts on the proposed tiered championship?
‘I wouldn’t be the biggest fan of it. I think there are far bigger issues that should be addressed in the GAA itself before. I wouldn’t be the biggest fan of it. I believe every team should be trying to win Sam Maguire, I believe every team should be going out and trying to get to Croke Park in the genuine ‘A’ championship or whatever you want to call it, so, in my personal opinion, I’m not the biggest fan.
‘Having said all that, and it kind of brings it back to Division 4 again, I believe that when we get going on the 25th of January, or whenever the first round of the league is, that’s your championship, to be honest with you. And I think a lot of counties are in that same boat. To me there seems to be one team in one tier and Dublin are out on their own. You can make two tiers if you want to make two tiers, but you probably need three or four tiers, really. I don’t think the two-tier is the answer. What is the answer, I probably don’t have the answer to that either? Dublin are so far ahead of everyone else, I’m not sure the creation of a second tier is the answer,’ he said.
Our time is up with Davy. Blessington and AGB are about to get underway for their epic clash. We throw one final question at him regarding selectors.
‘Not just yet, but close. There is a good bit of work going on in the background and it will be brought forward but not just yet. I’ve kind of got the next week or two to box off all that with a view to getting going in early November, and we will be getting going in early November. That will be done very soon,’ he added.
Wicklow need to get out of Division 4 to be playing at a higher level of football, a more competitive level of football
New Wicklow football manager Davy Burke in Aughrim last Sunday.