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Burke: I'm not just going to come in and try to play safe

Graham Burke at a press conference at the FAI National Training Centre yesterday. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Graham Burke at a press conference at the FAI National Training Centre yesterday. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Towards the end of Monday night's friendly, Ireland were awarded a free-kick in bonus territory, routinely the most probable route to goal for a Martin O'Neill outfit these days.

James McClean stepped up to the mark but, given his conversion rate, there was more likelihood of the lingering lightning in the sodden Parisian air striking him than there was of him striking on goal.

The shot arrowed predictably wide.

Many of us wondered what might have transpired had Graham Burke taken it instead or, indeed, what would the harm have been had he done so, particularly given his obvious technique.

"I got a bit bullied there I did," the debutant laughs, his inner confidence masks the fact he may only be half-joking.

"I think I was going to turn around and say, 'Here James, I'm going to take this'. I would have fancied my chances.

"More than likely I would have put it in the box. I don't think I was turning around to James McClean and saying it."

Perhaps he should have; he will get another chance though, even if the Shamrock Rovers' contingent might rightfully grumble.

When the media man told us he would be unavailable for his team this weekend, an initial instinct was to assume that Ireland would be denied his services, not the other way around.

Rovers have the much more pressing task - and cynics might argue it would offer him a chance to play some decent ball, too.

The struggling Hoops would have little chance against Dundalk as it is; without their dynamo, hardly any.

But apparently Martin O'Neill and Stephen Bradley agreed to differ.

Both will get appreciable heat if Burke does not play a significant role in the latest meaningless friendly.

It would be trite to say the international team suits him, for it does not; Burke's composure and poise are often anathema to an O'Neill side whose contempt of possession at times seems almost ingrained.

Still, he must start tomorrow, if only to be interrupt the bleak menu of so many tired and tested.

Mercifully, and with just enough an element of swagger, Burke, whose opening pass in international football characterised him, insists he will not change the way he plays.

If only Ireland could.

"I can't change," says the 24-year-old, re-establishing himself at home after a peripatetic few years in England's lower leagues.

"I'm not going to come in and go away from my identity as a player. I can't go and change and be a different type of player.

"I'm a football player, I'm a technical player so I'm not going to just start kicking it or being a different sort of player.

"I try to create and get shots away. I'm not going to come in and try be safe, just pass the ball here. I have to go and express myself and show what I can do, not just take the easy option.

"I'll play my usual game."

Music to the ears of those used to the discordant rhyme of an international side whose pleas for the poverty of their football remain as recurring as a broken record. Time to play a new tune.

"I back my ability," Burke stresses. "I can play. I think I can play at this level."

The received wisdom is that he must return to England, where he failed, instead of staying in Ireland, where he has thrived.

Perhaps he can buck the trend.

"If you're playing very well it doesn't matter what level you're playing," he says, reasonably, with a nod to a manager who, perhaps, has also been guilty of exploiting a supposed lack of quality in his squad as some kind of crutch.

"If he [O'Neill] can see you have the ability, I have the chance now to show him that I have the ability and make him think 'this kid can play and has ability'."

He can think of it no other way because, as you put to him the improbability of him scoring one of those 30-yard screamers which have decorated his 10-goal domestic campaign in Irish colours, he responds with merely the possibility.

"Anything is possible. It's all possible. That's the position I play in.

"I find myself in those type of situations and I back my ability. I back myself to score from there."

Sounds like a guy we can all support.

Irish Independent

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