January 15, 1993
Armagh's Jarlath Burns
Was consistency personified in 1992. The towering midfielder would like to see his club, Silverbridge, winning the Armagh championship in 1993. An Ulster senior football championship meal would go along nicely as well.
One of the prime movers behind the unification of Germany in 1870, revered son of Prussia and Statesmen Otto Von Bismark had the dubious distinction of having a frigate named after him by a certain Austrian-born dictator some sixty years lager. A doubtless honour, one which did much to besmirch the name of a man who was essentially a force for good. A great motivational force, he declared himself a 'Prussian first and a German second'. Silverbridge and 'erstwhile Armagh gaelic football star Jarlath Burns is unashamedly of the same way of thinking. Silverbridge to the marrow but yet a dyed in the wool player, racy of the Armagh soil that put the spring in his step and of the ground which would launch a thousand leaps skywards above the best midfielders around.
"First and foremost my greatest wish for the coming year would be to help steer Silverbridge to the county senior championship title and fitting reward for the men like Eamonn Murphy, Micky Trainor, Raymond Loye and Thomas Hamill who have worked tirelessly over the years for the south Armagh unit. To get an Ulster senior championship medal at the same time would be a brilliant bonus, needless to say though," explained the Saint Paul's, Beesbrook based secondary school teacher.
Crystal ball gazing was never part of the Burns curriculum however, and anyway setting goals for ;93 and realising them are entirely different matters as the seasoned inter county veteran would have you know. Variables come into play in making things slip into place. Can Silverbridge come through the coming year with a clean bill of health? Can their most valuable operatives last the season without coming a cropper on the injury front? On the Armagh scene, will the towering fetcher be an Orchard County harvester of good tidings in Ulster cum the summer of 1993?
As for the latter, Jarlath's inclusion or, otherwise splendid isolation very much remains in the melting pot. Fact is the Silverbridge warrior hasn't yet been approached by the Armagh team management to rejoin the county senior squad but were he to receive such an invitation, would his answer be in the affirmative? "I didn't rejoin the county panel last September simply because I knew I wouldn't have the been able to devote the time necessary to give it my full shot. I was in the process of doing up my house but I would be in a position now to give the necessary commitment and if asked by the Armagh team management to join the panel, I would certainly do so."
Good news then for all true Armagh fans and coming hot on the heels of the news released last week that Burns has been selected as Armagh's senior division one player of the year for 1992, it's a scenario and an arrangement that could well be hugely beneficial to all parties involved, if, as it seems likely, things come to fruition.
The recipient last week of this award, few in the Orchard County ever doubted but that the Silverbridge giant was the man pencilled in to succeed Kieran McGurk (Sarsfields) as the county's most consistent premier League player. There are others too with genuine claims on the award like minor star Diarmuid Marsden and Pearse Og flagship Ger Houlihan but Jarlath Burns never quite played as well before as he did over the course of the past season. He was consistency personified and possibly the most influential player on the Silverbridge team which scooped the Division One title in '92.
Arguably the best squad operating currently in the hotbed of football that is South Armagh, Silverbridge have an ace in Burns. He's the player local rivals Crossmaglen Rangers, Mullaghbawn and Cullyhanna would dearly like to have on their books, a veritable anchorman in the 'Bridge engine room. At 6' 3" in height and tipping the scales at just under fourteen stone, Burns would appear at first sight to be the very embodiment of a metaphorical battleship akin to the Bismark. Although the powerhouse of the team, his fielding ability, his penchant for hanging back and cutting off ambitious raids from the opposition's midfield partnership and above all, his leadership qualities have made him a dream ticket to manage for Silverbridge trainer Eamon McCann, selector Martin Murphy and of course, team manager Jim McCann, plus team captain Joe Murphy. A battleship with the manoeuvrability of a canoe!
A product of the Peter Keely/Pat Trainor school of underage coaching at Silverbridge, his love of the game and his appreciation for everything gaelic was in his genes, thanks to his father Colman and his Mullaghbawn-born mother, the former Helen McConville, both of whom are thankfully still hugely vibrant gaels. Very much a team player, selfless and reliable, the receipt of such a prestigious individual award as the 1992 Armagh Division One Player of the Year comes at a time when the specialist midfielder has possibly, at the age of twenty five, reached the zenith of his form.
Barely enlisted at the local primary school when the 'Bridge scooped the county intermediate championship in 1972, Jarlath Burns was frustrated in his efforts to secure success at St. Colman's, Newry. Despite the inclusion of players like current Armagh captain John Rafferty and Down's Cathal Murray alongside him on the McRory Cup side and the presence of Father Stevenson, Ray Morgan and Peter McGrath at various stages along the line, meagre times on the college front left the Creggan-born footballer's hunger for medals even greater. Before he bid farewell to his seventh year at Colman's he had got the taste of victory back at base, thanks in the main to the wiles and ways of team manager Donal Walsh, who coaxed the Silverbridge minors to success in 1984.
A pedigree midfielder with the necessary aptitude to make an emergency full forward when necessary, his elevation to senior club status was as inevitable as was the progression of the senior side in conjunction with other 'erstwhile minors John Reel, Kenneth McVerry, Delcan McBerry, Michael McShane, Sean McKeown and brother Fintan (a 1991 Armagh senior panelist), Jarlath was big enough, strong enough and ambitious enough to make an immediate impact at senior level at the tender age of seventeen. Brother also of Jerome, Cormac, Helena, Bronwyn and Dearbhla, a midfield Armagh minor berth with the equally forceful Mark Grimley in 1985 promised much but a better balanced, Declan Bonner-powered Donegal side scuttled the Orchard County's championship semi final hopes. Again, Silverbridge would come up trumps to compensate the eager Burns. Again messr Walsh made the most of the bagful of talent under his wing to lift the under 21 title in 1986, Silverbridge were on the up and up.
A tailor made foil to the experienced duo of Joe Murphy and Ollie Reel at club level, under 21 county action duly came on stream under the stewardship of Brendan McGeary. By that stage Father Sean Hegarty had already taken note of the Burns artistry and at nineteen, the Silverbridge sentinel was earmarked for a long and fruitful slot on Armagh's XV with the highest profile of them all. A good start was had by all too. Beginning at full forward he was later to meander out to midfield before playing a valuable part in Armagh's 1989 McKenna Cup win over Tyrone. Burns had learned his trade well. The artisan was now the artist. His 'erstwhile gurus like Kevin Burns, Paul McShane and Paddy Hughes were well pleased with their young clubmate. Kilmurray Park's less than willing disciple of the ground's training field had obviously more to offer and pain barriers would be crossed, laps would be done and sit ups completed in the act of consolidating his newly-won position on Fr. Hegarty's best favoured sons of Armagh.
Married to Belfast lass Suzanne and proud father of daughter Megan, a senior National Football League debut against Kerry brought him face to face and shoulder to shoulder with the legendary Jack O'Shea in season 1990/91. The Athletic Grounds provided the backdrop to Jarlath's baptism of of fire but the Silverbridge stalwart's burgeoning reputation remained untarnished at the end of a personally memorable hour's football. The Saint Marys Belfast 1989 Sigerson Cup winner (alongside Derry's Danny Quinn and Fermanagh's Fergal McCann plus clubmate Ollie Keel) progressed to win the Man of the Match award in the following National Football League tie away to Dublin, a game that made his selection on the Armagh team to face Down in the 1991 Ulster Championship almost a fait accompli. A tremendous fielder of the ball, Burns' Newry dual with Eamon Burns was one of the features of the tie, but save Silverbridge's Division Two League win, the 1991 season was one Jarlath Burns would best like forgotten.
Now an icon for young Silverbridge starlets like county minors Kieran Maillie and Michael Hanratty, Jarlath Burns continues to be a mainstay of the club set up. The hands on work of Tony McKenna, James Daly and Martin Campbell in the Silverbridge fringe is fully complimented by the Burns workrate on the pitch. The best efforts of Damien Freeman, club secretary Michael Maillie and the spirited playing personnel at Silverbridge is embodied in Jarlath Burns' contribution to the local gaelic scene. Surprisingly unutilised by Armagh team manager Jim McCorry in last year's championship game against down, a 1992 Division One County League title win plus a South Armagh Cup medal and a Forkhill Tournament winning outing more than made up for his exclusion from McCorry's squad. On the domestic front the schoolteacher is unashamedly most at ease at his best and in an environment he likes best. Home is where the heart is for Jarlath Burns and a McKilop Cup 1993 winners medal would enhance the Burns mantlepiece no end!
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
15th January 1993
Most Read Stories