Saturday 15 December 2018

Graham Burke nets first international goal as Ireland rally late to beat USA on John O'Shea's last appearance

Republic of Ireland 2 USA 1

2 June 2018; Graham Burke, left, of Republic of Ireland celebrates after scoring his side's first goal with teammate Darragh Lenihan during the International Friendly match between Republic of Ireland and the United States at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
2 June 2018; Graham Burke, left, of Republic of Ireland celebrates after scoring his side's first goal with teammate Darragh Lenihan during the International Friendly match between Republic of Ireland and the United States at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

A forgettable international season ended on a winning note, at last, for Martin O'Neill's Ireland side as they came from a goal down to beat the USA 2-1 and earn their first win in five games.

It was mediocre stuff from Ireland in the first half, but a night to remember for Graham Burke who bridged a four-decade gap by becoming the first home-based player to score in a senior international since Ray Treacy found the net way back in 1978.

And Alan Judge will also treasure the occasion of his fourth cap as he netted the winner a minute from time, a deserved accolade for the player who had to fight his way back from serious injury.

Burke has scored plenty of stunning goals for Shamrock Rovers since joining from Notts County and while his goal on Saturday night was of the scrappy variety, Burke just sending the ball over the line from a touch by Darragh Lenihan, a fellow graduate of Dublin nursery Belvedere, the act of scoring Ireland's first goal in three games will be a massive boost to the 24-year-old's confidence.

Burke's goal apart, Declan Rice and Darragh Lenihan were the main pluses of the night for O'Neill on an evening when Irish football said goodbye to 118-cap man John O'Shea.

O'Neill's team selection saw him go for a three-man defence, with Burke given a starting role as the first home-based player to start in a senior home international since 1986, and he will feel he emerged from the night with credit, the forward replaced seconds after his goal went in.

It started reasonably well for Ireland, plenty of possession early on but that amounted to no more than corner kicks, barely a half-chance, Walters well wide with an effort on 11 minutes.

A young USA side grew in confidence and took the game to Ireland, Hamburg forward Bobby Wood going close on 15 minutes while on 24 minutes, a good strike by Tyler Adams was deflected out by team-mate Rubio Rubin.

Ireland struggled to get into gear, more chances coming from the Americans, with Wood and Rubin going close. O'Neill made an important change on 34 minutes, replacing captain O'Shea and handing a debut to Lenihan, the first Meath native to play a senior international.

Ireland had a chance from a kick four minutes from half time, Burke stepping up to take it after Callum O'Dowda was fouled by DeAndre Yedlin, but Burke fired the kick straight into the wall, while just after that Seamus Coleman should really have scored after James McClean's cross into the box was flapped away by keeper Bill Hamid, but Coleman someone fired his shot right into the frame of Walters.

And just before half time, the USA had that deserved lead, Matt Maizga heading on a free kick and Wood was unmarked in the box, tapping the ball past Colin Doyle.

Ireland drew level on 56 minutes thanks to Burke, though. An O'Dowda free kick was headed on at the far post by Kevin Long, Lenihan tried a shot and Burke just about got a touch before it went over the line.

Lenihan was denied again on 67 minutes as a headed goal from him was ruled out for offside, the USA still a threat with efforts from Tim Weah and Wood.

O'Neill found time to bring on another debutant, Enda Stevens winning his first senior cap and it was another sub, Judge, who conjured up the winner, taking the ball off McClean and firing home his first international goal.

IRELAND: Doyle; K Long, O'Shea (Lenihan, 33), Duffy (Stevens, 77); Coleman, Hendrick (Arter, 82), O'Dowda (Judge, 88), Rice, McClean; Burke (Horgan, 58), Walters.

USA: Hamid; Yedlin (Moore, 70), Carter-Vickers (Parker, 61), Maizga, Villafana; Trapp; Rubin (De La Torre, 77), McKennie (Corona, 81), Adams, Weah; Wood (Sargent, 70).

REFEREE: A Dallas (Scotland)

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