Day Tripper: Eoin Burns

Town planner and footballer, Eoin Burns, 28, lives in Bishopstown. He is currently playing on the Irish Deaf Men’s Football Team at the Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria.

“I’m an early riser. I wake up between 7am and 8am. My first thought is always how fortunate I am. I count my blessings and thank God every day for what I have. I feel I’ve a gift, a sporting gift, and I want to use it. We should all see the glass as half full.

My breakfast is porridge with blueberries and cinnamon. I don’t drink tea or coffee as they contain caffeine, and that’s something I don’t bother with. I don’t drink fizzy drinks either, because of the sugar. I train hard, and I want to complement it by looking after myself.

I don’t have 80-90% of my hearing so I’m profoundly deaf. I wear a hearing aid, which helps a lot but I also need to see a person’s face when I’m talking to them so I can lip-read. If someone turns away, I’m lost. The cause of my deafness is unknown. My grandmother used to say I was hearing until the age of one and it all went downhill after that. Well, that’s what she thought anyway! I’ve been deaf all my life. I’ve no complaints whatsoever. At the end of the day, nobody is perfect.

Strangely enough, I see my deafness as a gift. It made me work harder in life, college and football. Having to work twice as hard has become second nature to me. There can be misconceptions with deafness and I get a little more grief than normal but I take it in my stride. If someone jokes about my hearing impairment, I’ll treat it light-heartedly, make a joke about it myself and catch them off guard.

Naturally I do feel frustrated sometimes, but that’s why I play an awful lot of football. I take my frustration out on the training ground. I’ll keep running, running and running.

I started playing football when I was very young at primary school and I’ve played it ever since. It’s always been my number one sport. In fifth year, I was captain of my school’s team, St Joseph’s School for the Deaf in Cabra, Dublin, for two years. There were no post-primary schools for the deaf in Cork at the time so it had to be boarding school. I was homesick for the first few weeks but after that, I got the hang of it.

Afterwards I went to CIT and played for the football team there before moving to London and joining Fulham Deaf FC for two years. Football, whether it’s hearing or deaf, is exactly the same sport except hearing sides have an advantage in that they’re able to talk. But we can overcompensate by using eyesight more, and being more visually aware.

I returned to Cork to do a Masters in Planning and Sustainable Development and played for the UCC football team and then for my local side Ballinhassig AFC. Our local shopkeeper told my mother I’m a boomerang, going away and then coming back. In fact, I’m moving to London in September again as I’ve a job lined up there.

I started playing for the Irish Deaf Men’s Football team before my 21st birthday. We qualified for the Deaflympics in Melbourne and I played as the newcomer. I clawed my way into the first 11, and had no fear. When you’re young, you just go for it. We went all the way to the semi-finals and were 2-0 up against Iran in the first half, but after half-time, Iran scored three goals- the third in the last minute- and we were knocked out. It was a tough experience… a real heart breaker. That’s something I want to put right.

It could happen at the 2013 Summer Deaflympics in Bulgaria. We’re in Group C and up against Nigeria, Japan and European favourites Russia, who won the final of the European Championships two years ago. They’re highly rated, but I still rate my team. I believe we’re the best out there… I’m sure there’d be a problem if I didn’t think that! We kick off the finals campaign against Nigeria on Thursday (last night), and then face Russia tomorrow, Saturday, before the final group game against Japan on Monday, July 29th.

Aside from football, at the moment I’m working part-time in Cork for a planning company. I pretty much cycle everywhere. Instead of having a car that burns fuel, I cycle and burn fat! For lunch, I usually go to a café and have a sandwich with chicken, lettuce and tomato. I eat lots of fruit and vegetables and I drink gallons of water.

In the evening, I’ll go training. I train nearly every day for two hours and I’m quite intense. I think training should be volatile. There’s no point playing football like tag rugby, you should get stuck in there and always bring it. On weekends, it’s normally up to Dublin for training and we do a lot of tactical and ball work… you’d be wrecked afterwards.

Dinner is chicken korma or something quite old-fashioned like bacon and cabbage. The poor farmer’s dinner! I’ve a big appetite, and I wipe the plate clean and then wait for the rest of the family to finish eating. I feel sorry for the dog!

To relax, I like going for walks or a gentle spin on the bike. I also watch movies with my girlfriend, Jeanette, or we’ll try a new restaurant. My vice is dark chocolate. I also have a cheeky pint of Guinness once or twice a week; however, I’m nearly 29, so I take it easy… when I was younger, I used to go out every night but I don’t have that type of energy anymore! Although I do get told I’ve a baby face, which could be down to a theory by an Irish sign language therapist who said deaf people can sometimes look younger because they don’t use their face muscles as much.

I can talk but I’m unable to communicate over the phone. I can hear but I can’t follow what’s being said exactly. I normally talk to family and work colleagues verbally, and with deaf friends it’s through sign language. I also started lip-reading very young. Your brain is like a sponge when you’re young, you’ve this hunger to learn. An annoying thing is that Ireland’s sign language is different from England’s. Also the Irish sign language is not officially recognised and that’s disappointing. The government needs to do something about that.

Another way I relax is through reading. When I worked in London, I went to bed at 11pm because I was up at 6am. Now in Cork, I don’t have to get up so early so don’t go to bed until midnight. I normally pick up a book before nodding off. I enjoy autobiographies about sports people, especially the top ones. Every book I read, I take one good thing from it and use it. Like Roy Keane and his philosophy on training hard or Muhammad Ali’s emphasis on not taking shortcuts. I also enjoyed Christine Wellington’s book- an English former professional triathlete and four-time Ironman Triathlon World Champion- on the way she persevered. Sometimes training can be painful but you have to disregard it and push through.

I did my first triathlon two years ago in Kinsale. It was like a wrestling match in the water, as swimmers tried to get to the front. However, on the cycle I was in my element. Cycling every day actually paid off! In the winter, when I’m out, I’m just thinking how absolutely mad it is being on the bike and soaking wet. But I say to myself ‘hang on, it’ll pay off’. And it did.

I’d definitely be doing more triathlons if it wasn’t for football. When I hang up my boots at 40, I’ll take them more seriously.

Sports wise, football would still be at the centre of my greatest moment, which was winning the British Deaf Cup Final at Goodison Park with Fulham, when we played against Doncaster Deaf FC. If I had to pick just one moment, that’s the one I’d choose, but hopefully the best is yet to come, as we’ll win the Deaflympics. On a more personal level, my defining moment was graduating with a first class honour in Construction Management at CIT. I showed I could do well in college.

Truthfully, I owe it all to my family. I’m forever indebted to them for their help in making me into the person I am today. I know I drove my mother mad when I was younger, as I was a handful! I had so much energy, always climbing trees, and i was particularly rowdy in school. Now at home I call myself ‘The Special One’, like José Mourinho, but maybe I’ll also turn out to be ‘The Happy One’ when we win the Deaflympics.

I’m realistic and I know it won’t be easy. My motto in life is ‘smooth seas do not make skilful sailors’. You have to go out there and test yourself. You need to learn to fight, deal with life’s problems, and not have things handed to you.

I’d like to be remembered as somebody who gave 100%, and thought more of others than himself. However, I still have so much more to do. I want to go as far as I can. I’ve 32 caps, and while it’s an honour to play for your country, I really want to win a trophy with the team. I want us to be regarded as a good team, one of the best. Ideally that would mean Ireland winning a trophy in Bulgaria and then the European Deaf Football Championships in Germany in two years time. After all of that, then I’ll be happy.”