Graham Burke had a night to remember on his first senior start for Ireland.
After an impressive cameo against France on Monday night, the Shamrock Rovers forward was thrown in from the beginning against the USA at the Aviva on Saturday night – and the 24-year-old justified his selection by tapping home his first international goal.
Speaking after the 2-1 victory, Martin O’Neill, while full of praise for Burke’s attitude in training and commitment to performing well for his country, was pretty ambiguous when it came to the question of the former Aston Villa man being called up for the Boys in Green in their next international outings this autumn – namely, in the more competitive environment of the UEFA Nations League clashes with Denmark and Wales:
“[The goal] was nice for him, not so much for what he did in the game, but just for his attitude in training, wanting to score goals, wanting to try perform and got some sort of reward for it.
“It was quite quick for him tonight, and it might have been a bit strange for him, as I expected it to be. It was tough for him out there; I wasn’t expecting miracles. I though maybe ten or 15 minutes of the game passed him by but was nice to see him score.
“[His further involvement with Ireland] will be entirely up to him. His attitude in training has been great. He’s been brave, he’s an exceptionally nice footballer.
“Whatever he has designs on, I think he has to push on. If, for instance, if he wants to go back and play in England, these things would give him a boost of confidence.
“I’ll keep an eye on things and see how he goes.”
Burke, a former under-21 international, returned to Ireland to join Premier Division side Shamrock Rovers in 2017. After a first year blighted by injury and disciplinary issues, he has been enjoying a stellar year in his second season in Tallaght, scoring ten goals even in the midst of a frustrating campaign for Stephen Bradley’s side as a whole.