It is just shy of two weeks since David Burke underwent cruciate ligament surgery, but a timeline for his return to hurling is much harder to determine.
The man who captained Galway to All-Ireland glory in 2017 won’t be pulling on the maroon and white again this season, which is something he has already accepted. But beyond that, who knows?
The 33-year-old, who has been one of the outstanding leaders within the Galway dressingroom since making his senior debut in 2010, was taking part in an attacking drill at training on March 15th when the injury occurred.
“Myself and another player were going for a ball and I just didn’t get my left knee down on time, so all my body weight went on my right knee,” recalls Burke.
“I was in woeful pain at the time. The doc got me up, it was sore the next day but improved the next two days and I thought I was getting a little bit better, but the scan in Santry over Paddy’s weekend showed the ACL was gone.”
He had the surgery on April 8th in Santry and is down to using just one crutch now, soon he won’t need any. His partner, Laura, has already been telling him to slow down and not be rushing his recovery.
“It’s going to be very hard even getting back for the club this year, from talking to the surgeon it’s nine months realistically,” adds Burke.
“So, it’ll be very tight but I kind of have a target in my head to get back for the knockout stages of the club, if I can. It all depends, rehab could go well but you can get setbacks and I’m mentally prepared for that after the initial disappointment of it.
“It’s a huge mental injury really, you have to set yourself small targets, you can’t be looking too far ahead, even though that’s what everyone would be asking and talking to you about.
“It’s just small targets, even getting back off the crutches and walking normally again is the short-term one, that’s what you have to do. Look, I mightn’t get back hurling, it just all depends on how my rehab and recovery goes.”
Hurling fans hope they will see Burke back in the Galway engine room next year, but there are no guarantees.
“I haven’t closed the door on it,” says Burke when asked about playing with the Tribesmen in 2024. “I’ll see how the rehab and the recovery goes. All going well, you’d like to, but you don’t know how things will go, you just don’t know.
“I might go back training for a month and the next thing I’m not able to do it. It’s very hard to tell at this stage.”
He doesn’t have to go far to source advice – Fintan Burke, Shane Cooney and Seán Linnane have all previously had knee injuries, while current Galway hurling manager, Henry Shefflin, suffered two cruciate tears during his playing days with Kilkenny.
“With the initial disappointment, Henry was in contact with me quite a bit. Obviously he’s gone through it as well so there’s loads of perspective on it from his end and how he came back. He did really well when he came back from his, so there has been a good bit of support from him.”
And while Burke might not have a playing role for the 2023 championship, he will still have an important part to play in their summer campaign. Shefflin has asked Burke to bring his experience to help the back room team prepare the players.
“Even going to training there with the lads over the last couple of weeks, watching it and helping out in any way I can, it’s been a plus and it keeps you sane, I suppose.
“I’ve watched a good few of the league matches anyway and stuff like that. I suppose our focus is on Wexford so you’re just kind of helping out whatever way you can, whether it’s just watching training or chatting to a few lads and maybe giving the younger lads a little bit of advice.
“You’d give them feedback but there is no real set job or role I have within it, I just kind of float I suppose and do a few different things, chat with lads and stuff like that. Coming up to a game I’d still be very much involved with the players and how they are approaching a game, making sure everybody is still on the same wavelength.”
He will be part of the Galway back room team on Saturday when the Tribesmen begin the Leinster SHC with a home tie against Wexford at Pearse Stadium. Both sides finished outside the playoff places in this year’s National League.
“The narrative out there is that Wexford hadn’t a great league and also that Galway hadn’t a great league either, but I think both blooded a lot of new guys,” adds Burke.
“Wexford have done well in Pearse Stadium in the last few years. When they have their fully fit team they are really good and we’re the same, if we can hurl the next day hopefully we should get over the line, but it’s all about performing.”
David Burke was speaking at the launch of the 2023 Kellogg’s GAA Cúl Camps. The camps will begin in late June and run up to the end of August for children aged 6-13. For booking and further information check www.gaa.ie/kelloggsculcamps.