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Sam Burnison

One of the youngest players ever to be capped by the Irish FA, Sam Burnison followed in his elder brother, Joe's footsteps in more ways than one...

Name: Samuel Burnison
Born: 30 November 1890, Lurgan
Position: Inside-Left / Right-Back

Representative Honours: Ireland: 8 Full Caps (1908-1913). Irish League: 5 Caps (1906-1914).
Club Honours: (with Distillery) Irish League Champion 1905/06 (shared); Irish Cup Winner 1909/10; Gold Cup Winner 1913/14, Runner-Up 1915/16; City Cup Winner 1912/13; Co Antrim Shield Winner 1914/15, Runner-Up 1905/06, 1907/08, 1915/16; Belfast Charities Cup Winner 1915/16, Runner-Up 1905/06, 1908/09, 1911/12.

Club Career:

Sam “Surefoot” Burnison followed in the footsteps of elder brother Joe, as Distillery player and captain, and as a much honoured Ireland international footballer. Like Joe, Sam began his career as a forward, making his Distillery bow as a 15 year-old inside-forward, scoring in a 2-2 draw with Glentoran on 6th January 1906. At the end of that season, young Sam played in both of the drawn Championship Play-Off games with Cliftonville which saw the Irish League shared for the only time in its history.

By the 1907/08 season, Burnison was turning out regular as half-back for Distillery, and aged just 17 years and 77 days, he made his international debut at inside-forward in a 3-1 defeat by England. In 1910, now playing in the right-back position that was to be his for the rest of his career, Sam emulated brother Joe, in captaining Distillery to an Irish Cup victory – it was to be a parting gift, as he signed for English Division Two side Bradford (Park Avenue) in May.

Whilst at Bradford, Burnison became the first player for the club to gain international recognition, taking the field for all three of Ireland’s games in the 1911 International Championship. After fifteen Football League appearances, Burnison returned to Distillery for the 1911/12 season. He helped the Whites to further successes throughout the rest of the decade, most notably scoring a penalty in the 1914 Gold Cup Final replay win over Shelbourne.

In January 1913, Burnison won the last of his eight international caps, in a 1-0 defeat by Wales. All but his first international outing had been made at right-back, and although Ireland won just once with him in the side, when they defeated Scotland 1-0 in 1910, it is to his credit that only one of these defeats could be considered a “hammering”. Other representative honours came Burnison’s way in the form of five Inter-League caps against the Football League and Southern League between 1906 and 1914.

Sam Burnison left Distillery for home-town club Glenavon mid-way through the 1918/19 season. In all he played 343 games for the Whites.

Ireland Cap Details:
15-02-1908 England. H L 1-3 BC
12-02-1910 England. H D 1-1 BC
19-03-1910 Scotland H W 1-0 BC
28-01-1911 Wales... H L 1-2 BC
11-02-1911 England. A L 1-2 BC
18-03-1911 Scotland A L 0-2 BC
10-02-1912 England. H L 1-6 BC
18-01-1913 Wales... H L 0-1 BC

Summary: 8/0. Won 1, Drew 1, Lost 6.

A third brother, Harold “Hal” Burnison, also played for Distillery with distinction in the 1920s, making 326 appearances for the club, and helping them to four trophy wins. Although never capped by Ireland, Hal did play five times for the Irish League at left-back.

Yet another brother, Johnny, also played Irish League football for Glenavon and was capped as a Junior international. He was killed in an accident aged just 21.

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