DURING the forties and fifties, the city of Cork produced some wonderful soccer players among them Florrie Burke.
Florrie came from Ballintemple and played with Cork United, Cork Athletic and Evergreen United.
These sides were among the great teams of that era that he played his part with winning medals at all Cork clubs.
Florrie first attracted the attention of talent spotters when as a 15-year-old in 1936 as he helped Rockwell to a shock 2-1 win over a Jackie Carey inspired Home Farm team in the FAI Minor cup semi-final.
Alas the Bandon Road side were found to have played two over age players that saw Home Farm advance to the final where they defeated Drogheda.
In his youth Florrie evaded the GAA ban for playing soccer and was a promising hurler with Blackrock before deciding to concentrate on soccer.
Burke spent his formative years with Rockwell and after a distinguished career at minor and junior level with the club in the mid- thirties he then played with Blackrock Rovers before signing with Cork United.
Florrie made his Senior debut in 1941 for Cork United after signing from Blackrock Rovers and the progress he made after moving was incredible.
He made the number eight jersey his own as he played a major part in helping Cork United to their second league championship in 1942.
Soon afterwards he moved to his favourite centre- back berth and won five more League championship medals three with Cork United in 1943, ’45 and 1946 and he also captained Cork Athletic to league glory in 1950 and 1951.
Cork Athletic also won the Cup in 1951 when they beat Shelbourne that gave Florrie his second winners medal having won one in 1947 when they defeated Bohemians.
Florrie had the opportunity to gain a third winners Cup medal when he played for Evergreen United against his old Cork Athletic team-mates in the 1953 final.
Burke although still a retained player with Cork Athletic in the 1952/3 season was loaned to neighbours Evergreen whom he was only allowed to play cup football.
Florrie consistently said that Cork United were the finest teams that he ever played with as his displays against English teams such as Sir Stanley Mathews Blackpool and Billy Wright’s Wolves meant it wasn’t long before he began to attract scouts from English clubs.
Merseyside giants Everton offer a massive 2,000 pounds for him after the war but Florrie declined the offer preferring instead to play on his native Leeside.
There is little doubt Burke had the talent and skills to make the grade in England, but Everton’s loss was Irish soccer’s gain.
The form of Florrie was incredible, and he had the honour to play for numerous Inter-League teams just after World War Two.
He had the distinction of winning his first full International cap when he lined out for Ireland against West Germany in Dublin.
The game was played on October 17, 1951 and Ireland won 3-2 with Florrie being acclaimed as Man of the Match.
Another memorable match for Burke was playing for the Irish league against their English counterparts as on that famous day he had the job of marking the legendary Nat Lofthouse of Bolton.
In true Burke style he marked Lofthouse out of the game and that was a major achievement as the Bolton man was nicknamed the “Lion of Vienna” after England’s 3-2 victory over Austria in 1952.
Many pundits at that time acclaimed the performance of Burke as his best ever in a green shirt.
In his many years playing Burke was always a tough but fair opponent and has the distinction of having never being sent off or booked during his glittering career.
As a mark of respect and in appreciation of his wonderful service that Florrie gave to soccer followers everywhere, he was inducted into the FAI/Opel Hall of Fame the year before he died.
Florrie was finally laid to rest in Cornelly Cemetery in the Welsh town of Kenfig Hill near Bridgend between Swansea and Cardiff.
It was a fitting tribute to a truly outstanding footballer.
Florrie Burke played with Cork United, Cork Athletic and Evergreen United the top three Cork teams of the forties.
Burke was born in August 1918.
Florrie won a total of five League of Ireland championships and two FAI Cup medals.
Everton tried to buy Florrie for 2,000 but he declined the offer.
Florrie was awarded Man of the Match when Ireland defeated West Germany in October 1951 where Ireland won the game 3-2.
Burke was inducted into the FAI/Opel Hall of Fame in 1994 just a year before his death.