Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Down GAA mourns loss of Eamon Burns

By Diarmúid Pepper

Down GAA is in mourning following the sudden and untimely passing of footballing legend Eamonn Burns at the age of 56.

Burns was in the middle of the park for Down when the Mourne Men lifted the Sam Maguire in 1991, ending a 23-year wait for the famous silverware. 

Down overcame Meath by two points on that day in a game where Burns contributed two vital points to the scoreboard.

Three years later, Burns transitioned to half-back and played through the pain barrier as Down won its fifth All-Ireland title courtesy of a two-point victory over Dublin.

At the recent All-Ireland Final, Burns and the Down class of ’94 were paraded in Croke Park to celebrate the silver jubilee of that famous team’s victory.

Pete McGrath was the Down manager who overseen these two momentous victories and, speaking to The Irish News, he said “two words I’d associate with Eamonn are integrity and dignity”. 

Described by Down County Board as a “true son of Down”, Burns went on to have coaching and managerial roles within his club Bryansford and the Down Senior Football team. 

He led his home club Bryansford to Down Senior Football Championship success and presided over some memorable days for Down in his time as manager of the county.

Having been a selector during James McCartan’s reign over the Mourne Men, Burns was ratified as manager in 2015 after Jim McCorry stepped down from the role. 

He led Down to an Ulster Championship final in 2017, defeating a strong Armagh team and a much-fancied Monaghan side along the way. 

On his time as manager of Down Senior team, the County Board said: “For Eamonn, it was a case of serving his county when he was needed.

“At a time when Down football was not enjoying the best of fortune, Eamonn Burns remained a dignified figure at all times who only ever gave of his very best in the cause of Down.

“Success was to elude us against Tyrone in the 2017 Ulster final, but pride had been restored in our county in no small way due to the efforts of Eamonn Burns, a man who himself had great pride in the Red and Black. 

“(When) Eamonn resigned as County Senior Team Manager, he did so in a manner fitting of the man; quietly, with dignity, decency and with only the best interests of Down in mind.”

Down County Board hailed Burns as “one of the good guys who was always about the greater good”. 

The Board added: “Eamonn was always selfless with his time and only wanting to give 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. Eamonn has been taken from us too soon, but we will smile in the memory of the days that he gave us.”

Down County Board extended its condolences to Burns’ family, writing in a statement: “To his wife Sinead, sons Cathal and Thomas, brothers Malachy and Colum, and sister Mary we extend our deepest and heartfelt sympathy.”

His club, Bryansford, also paid tribute to their dedicated clubman, writing: “It is with great sadness that we have learned of the passing of our member Eamonn Burns. An All-Ireland winner with Down, he was a true legend of both club and county. From all at the club we extend our sincere condolences to his family at this sad time.”