Institute skipper Cormac Burke anxious to make up for lost time, after almost 18 months without football

Captain Cormac Burke admits he can’t wait to get back playing competitive football when Institute travel to Dergview this Saturday, for the opening game of the 2020-21 Championship season.

Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 9:59 am
Institute's Cormac Burke (left) and Aidan McCauley at the Championship launch. Picture by Philip Magowan / Press Eye

The 27-year-old and his team-mates has been left frustrated by almost 18 months without football during which time ’Stute were controversially relegated from the Premiership and then had to watch from the sidelines as the top flight continued without them due to a lack of elite status for the Championship.

Indeed, Institute’s last competitive match was a 2-1 Premiership defeat against Crusaders on March 7th 2020 but with the situation now finally resolved, Burke is anxious to make up for lost time.

“It’s crazy that it’s nearly two years since we kicked a ball competitively. It’s hard to believe that it has taken that long but thankfully we start on Saturday and I’m really looking forward to it,” he insisted.

“The most important thing is getting back enjoying our football again because for me coming towards important years in my career, I want to enjoy it. I have lost out on nearly two years of football and you feel for the younger players who’ve lost two years of their development because a few years out of football is a long time in a short career.”

Sean Connor’s side, who round off their pre-season preparations in a behind closed doors friendly against Cliftonville tonight at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium (KO 7.30pm), travel to Darragh Park at the weekend before starting their home campaign against Ballyclare Comrades on Tuesday, August 10 and Burke feels getting off to a good start is vital if they harbour hopes of challenging for promotion.

The ex-Derry City player, who is in his second spell with the Waterside club, hopes the young ’Stute squad will rise to the challenge.

“We start at Dergview and I feel we have to hit the ground running if we want to finish anywhere near the top,” he explained, “With the club being relegated, it has to be their priority to get promoted. For a club like ourselves, we have to be looking to go up.

“We have a handful of experienced players but we are a very young, inexperienced squad. Sometimes that can be good and sometimes it can be bad but hopefully the boys will have no fear and just go out and enjoy it.”

The Creggan man is looking forward with the extra responsibilities of having the captain’s armband this season, a first in his senior career.

“It’s a big responsibility and it’s the first time I’ve ever been captain in my senior career,” he added. “The younger players want to see an example and while that’s a lot of pressure, I’m really relishing it at the minute and really enjoying it.”

In recent seasons there has always been a clear favourite for the Championship title but Burke believes this campaign could be wide open.

“Our first couple of games are probably going to determine what way the season is going to go. At the launch I was looking around and everybody thinks they are going to get promoted this year. You have Ards and Ballinamallard who will fancy their chances, but anybody could really go up this season.

“There isn’t a ‘massive club’ who have big investment and a big support. That isn’t there this season so it really is anybody’s opportunity to go up.”