The late Bobby Burke
St Anne’s Church in Ardclough was packed to the rafters on Thursday, September 28, for the funeral of Bobby Burke, Galway native and well known Ardclough and Kildare hurler, who worked for many years in nearby Lyons Estate.
Born in Ballyboggan, Newcastle, County Galway, Bobby arrived at UCD (Lyons) on November 1, 1962 along with his lifelong friend (and fellow hurler) Noel Burke.
Word quickly spread that a hurler and footballer of note had arrived in the area and he was duly approached to join Ardclough GAA Club. He instantly agreed.
Back home, Bobby had shown a lot of potential when winning his first medal with Loughrea CBS in 1950. He went on to win a minor championship with Athenry some seven years later.
He moved on and played junior hurling with Newcastle in 1957, 1958 and 1959 and had a brief stint with Ballymun Gaels (later to become Ballymun Kickhams) in Dublin.
From Dublin, Bobby was transferred to Lyons Estate — and so began a long association with Ardclough, winning the first of his ten senior medals in 1968, his last in 1985. He played in eighteen consecutive senior hurling finals; even more league finals and won a junior championship medal in 1993.
He was one of four Ardclough hurlers selected on the Kildare Hurling team of the Millennium.
In latter years when travelling to a game Bobby always threw the boots into the back of the car — and he didn’t hold back his disappointment if he was not called into action.
Bobby also enjoyed his football and won a Junior ‘A’ medal and Jack Higgins Cup in 1968 and was also on the team that won the Division 2 League final in 1976.
It didn’t take long before the senior Kildare hurling management came knocking on Bobby’s door for his services and he duly agreed to line out, going on to play with a lot of success, winning Leinster and All Ireland Junior hurling medals with the county in 1966.
Three years later Bobby captained Kildare to victory in Leinster and All Ireland Intermediate Hurling Championship success, beating Cork in Thurles on October 11 on a scoreline of 2-8 to 3-4. The Ardclough man contributed four points that day.
He added a Division 2 National Hurling League the same year and then another All Ireland medal when winning the Ireland 'B' Championship with The Lilies in 1974.
Bobby was a prime instigator in forming a Kildare O-40s hurling team, going on to play in two All Ireland finals in that grade
Moving into the administration side of things Bobby served as Chairman of Ardclough Hurling Club for a long number of years and also managed and was a selector with the Kildare senior hurlers. He represented his club at county board level up to the time of his illness.
The attendance at his funeral Mass in St Anne's Church, Ardclough, last week was a testament to the esteem the man was held.
Among the items carried up to the altar in his memory was a hurley and sliothar, and jerseys to mark his involvement with Galway, Kildare and of course Ardclough.
A large number of Bobby's former team-mates, club and county, thronged the church. Afterwards many of these great friends shook hands they had not seen in a long time — and then memories were reignited, matches replayed and certain ‘instances’ recalled.
While practically every hurling club in the county (past and present) was represented it was the sight of some Éire Óg players, those who had played alongside Bobby but who had also been fierce rivals for many years on county final day, that really caught the eye. At one stage I think I caught a glimpse of one former Éire Óg player shedding a bit of tear; it was a sight that would have brought a big smile to the face of one Bobby Burke. Sunday's county championship title for his beloved Ardclough would have brought him huge pleasure and I'm sure he was looking down happily on the scenes of joy.
Bobby's son Declan spoke of his dad and said it has been “a long journey for the family during his illness, and while it was a very sad day for many it was also a time of celebration of Bobby's life.” To his wife Paula, his daughters Colette and Deirdre, sons Declan, Robert and Paul, his sisters and brothers and extended family and all his many friends in Ardclough and the wider GAA circle, we send our deepest sympathy.
Bobby was laid to rest in Newcastle, County Dublin.
May he Rest In Peace.
- Tommy Callaghan (with thanks to Morris Byrne)
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