Burt may be without ace forward Niall Campbell when they face Antrim Intermediate Champions Clooney Gaels in the first round of the Ulster Intermediate Club Championship in Letterkenny on Sunday (throw-in 3.30pm).
The 33 year old, who hit 1-4 for Burt in the county final against Setanta, is struggling with a back injury and joint manager PJ O’Brien says that it is touch and go whether he’ll be available on Sunday.
“We all know what Niall can do, and if he doesn’t make it it will be a serious loss for us,” O’Brien said.
‘Jude’ hit three points from play for Burt in the second half as they withstood a Setanta comeback and his guile and experience is a key component in the Burt gameplan.
O’Brien and co-manager Ronan McLaughlin have an otherwise fully fit squad to choose from.
Tipperary native O’Brien is wary of what the Antrim champions, based in the village of Ahoghill, bring to the table.
“By all accounts they are a very good side with a good record in Antrim club hurling and a few years ago they reached the All-Ireland junior club final.
“We’ll be up against it, but the boys are playing well and know they will have a tough fight in their hands.”
Unusually for Burt and its dual players, there has been a clear fortnight with no football games in the lead up to Ulster Club championship.
Last year, Burt played Buncrana in the Intermediate football championship less than 24 hours before losing to Fermanagh champions Lisbellaw in the Ulster Club Championship.
Lisbellaw went on to win the Ulster title; Burt’s last Ulster title was won at Junior level in 2011 when they beat Antrim’s Creggan Kickhams after a replay.
“Preparations have been good,” O’Brien acknowledged
“We played Na Magha [Derry’s representatives in the Ulster Intermediate competition] under lights in Buncrana since the county final, and had a good win.
“I was impressed with the players’ vigour and enthusiasm.
“They were still on a high from the final, and if we can recapture the intensity of the first half of the county final in particular, we’ll give a good account of ourselves.”
In that county final, Burt blitzed Setanta in the ten minutes before full time with full forward Jonathan McGrath instrumental in setting up goals for Stephen Gillespie, Niall Campbell and Stephen Boyle.
Defensively, Burt restricted Setanta to frees and shots from distance and their work rate in terms of blocking and hooking was far superior to that of their opponents.
Niggling injuries to Ciaran Dowds, Mickey McCann and Pádraig Doherty, which saw the latter two substituted early in the second half of that final, have cleared up, while Enda McDermott’s return to competitive action after a knee injury was also curtailed when he was also substituted in the second half.
Burt will need to be at the peak of their powers if they’re to defeat the Antrim side.
Clooney Gaels have run up some big scorelines on their way to a 3-14 to 2-12 victory over Carey Faughs in the Antrim final. They currently sit mid-table in Antrim’s Division 2 leagues where they have nine wins from 17 games.
“They get a lot more games than us, and probably of a better quality,” O’Brien acknowledged, “but they boys are playing well and we can’t ask for more than that.”