Born to Irish immigrant parents, he was England Schoolboys’ outside right against Scotland in 1925, but an injury in a car accident whilst playing for Liverpool Reserves led him to believe that his career was over and he went back to completing his time as a bricklayer.
After being out of the game for 8 months, he asked Prescot Cables for a trial and was signed 2 years later by Oldham Athletic. He had two and a half seasons at Boundary Park before Norwich City secured him for then record transfer fee of £2,000.
The Manchester Guardian wrote of him after a goalless draw at old Trafford in 1938 ‘Burke would not have defended his own home with greater zeal and ardour’.
He was signed by Southport just before the beginning of the 1946-47 season but played only once for the club, the first peacetime league game, before having his contract cancelled as he did not find it easy to get away from his job in the building trade and was not anxious to become a full-time professional.