The Longford GAA mourned the passing of one of its football legends recently, in Robert ‘Bobby’ Burns.
Best known throughout the county his heroic point-scoring exploits in the 1966 ‘Home’ National League Championship winning team that beat Galway by nine points to eight at Croke Park. Burns, who occupied the full forward position on that day, kicked eight of Longford’s nine points against a Galway team who won three back-to-back All-Irelands (1964-66).
After that historical triumph, Longford then hosted New York at Pearse Park. A 1-18 to 0-17 point aggregate win over a strong New York side featured five points from Bobby from his full forward berth.
But it wasn’t at the business end of the field that Bobby started out. His first honour came in 1955 with St Mary’s Granard when he played in goal and won the U-18 county championship before successfully defending the title the following year. 1955 also saw Bobby make his debut in a Longford jersey as he lined out, again in goal, for the county minor side.
He also had a very successful Sigerson Cup career and played with both Multyfarnham and Gormanston College and was part of the Gormanston panel that were beaten by St Jarlath’s of Galway by just two points in the Colleges All-Ireland decider in 1958. He also won a Dublin League and Championship in 1963 with UCD. Burns captained St Mary’s Granard to their first Leader Cup triumph in 1964 and was also selected for the Leinster Railway Cup side the same year, along with fellow clubman Sean Murray and names such as Dublin’s Micky Whelan, Paddy Holden, Des and Lar Foley, Leinster reached the final where they lost to Ulster.
The golden era of Bobby’s career came in the mid 60s, when along with a famous National League title in 1966, he also won the first of back-to-back county championship medals in the same year and played on the Granard team that successfully defended the trophy a year later, before he retired in his late 20s a year later. He also won an O’Byrne cup medal in 1965 with Longford as they brushed Kildare aside in that year’s final in Pearse Park.
Burns played his last game in blue and gold in a League semi-final play-off defeat to Meath in the spring of 1967 before emigrating to England to further his studies as an accountant. He then moved to Kildare to farm the land he purchased near Blessington where he went on to coach the local men’s senior side for a spell and also managed the Kildare senior side for two years at the beginning of the 70s.
Bobby’s life was celebrated with funeral Mass on Friday, November 16th at the Church of Our Lady of Mercy in Crosschapel near his home in Naas, County Kildare, before his remains were laid to rest in Burgage Cemetery, Blessington, County Dublin. A large guard of honour comprising of former team mates from both club and county was also present to honour his memory.
Bobby is predeceased by his late wife Margaret and survived by his partner Helen, son Robert, daughter Jenny, brothers Michael and John and sisters Mary and Kathleen.