Belfast Telegraph

Eamonn Burns 'a true son of Down' - tributes to former player and manager

Eamonn Burns as Down boss in 2017
Eamonn Burns as Down boss in 2017
Eamonn Burns playing for the Mourne county in 1994
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Down GAA has been rocked after the sudden passing of former star midfielder Eamonn Burns yesterday.

The Bryansford man won two All-Ireland titles as a player in the 1990s and would go on to manage the team for a three-year spell which ended when he stepped down in summer 2018.

It is believed Mr Burns died suddenly at a recycling centre.

He is survived by his wife Sinead, sons Cathal and Thomas, brothers Malachy and Colum, and sister Mary.

Just last month, Burns (56) and his 1994 title-winning team-mates were back on the Croke Park pitch, introduced to the crowd as the jubilee team on All-Ireland final day, 25 years on from their own success.

"Eamonn has been taken from us too soon, we will miss you Eamonn but we will smile in the memory of the days that you gave us. You were a true son of Down," a Down GAA statement said.

The highlight of his management career was leading his team to the 2017 Ulster final with wins over Armagh and Monaghan - but it's those two All-Ireland medals that proved his crowning moments in Gaelic football.

During the first win in 1991, when Down shocked favourites Meath in the decider at Croke Park, star midfielder Burns scored two points, including a shot that edged his side into a lead they would not relinquish, going on to win 1-16 to 1-14.

"It feels fantastic to have won an All-Ireland medal and the enormity of what it means is only beginning to sink in," he told the Hogan Stand after the game. "I feel very honoured and proud to have played a part in helping the Sam Maguire Cup return to County Down."

The Mournemen would lift the trophy three years later, when Down saw off Dublin 1-12 to 0-13 in the final with Burns moving to right half back.

The retired teacher was appointed manager in November 2015 after serving as a selector under James McCartan for two years. At club level, he had managed Ballymartin, Darragh Cross and Tullylish as well as his home club Bryansford, whom he guided to Down Senior Championship success.

"After the Championship of 2018, Eamonn resigned as County Senior Team Manager and he did so in a manner fitting of the man, quietly, with dignity, decency and with only the best interests of Down in mind," continued the Down GAA statement.

"Eamonn was a great ambassador for Down as a player and as a manager.

"He was one of the good guys, always about the greater good, always selfless with his time and only wanting to give of his best in any task that he undertook. Down GAA have been privileged to have Eamonn Burns amongst our sons, he gave us as supporters many magical moments, he brought a smile to our faces and in those days of 1991 and 1994 he helped bring us glory days."

GAA president John Horan said Mr Burns "left a great legacy" in the game.

“It was only a few weeks ago at the jubilee dinner on All-Ireland football final day that I had the pleasure of meeting Eamonn and his colleagues as we saluted the 25th anniversary of the great Down winning team of 1994," he said.

“The special bond between the group was very evident and Eamonn was a big part of that. Not content with being a part of an iconic Down team that captured two memorable All-Ireland titles in 1991 and 1994, Eamonn was a man who was committed to giving back.

“His club in Bryansford benefited and in more recent times he was prepared to put himself forward to take charge of the county senior team for three years and pass on his knowledge to a new generation of Down players looking to follow in the footsteps of the team of the 90s.

“On and off the field he was a great ambassador for our Association and we join our Mourne County colleagues and Gaels in lamenting his loss."

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