Wednesday 23 January 2019

O'Neill delighted as Burke bags first Republic goal

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Reuters
Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Reuters

Colin Young

John O'Shea signed off in his final game for the Republic of Ireland but it was a night of firsts at the Aviva Stadium as Martin O'Neill's men came from behind against the USA to win 2-1.

Shamrock Rovers striker Graham Burke became the first League of Ireland player in 40 years to score for the senior side.

And Brentford midfielder Alan Judge capped a rewarding night for O'Neill and his players when he smashed home his first Ireland goal in the final minute to clinch an end-of-season win.

O'Shea, who was named captain in his 118th and last appearance for his country, left proceedings in the 34th minute when he was replaced by Blackburn's Darragh Lenihan.

The former Manchester United and Sunderland defender, who is hoping to secure a move to a new club this summer, handed the skipper's armband back to Seamus Coleman before saying his farewells to the 32,300 fans at the Aviva .

Afterwards, O'Shea addressed supporters. "It has been an absolute privilege to play for you and I look forward to joining you at the games now," he said. "I just can't believe Declan Rice was named man of the match. I thought I was a shoo-in!"

Manager O'Neill, who has persevered with Judge after a career-threatening injury, was delighted for the substitute who scored in the last minute, just moments after being introduced.

"It is very pleasing for him because he has had such a tough time. He thought his career was over with a very serious injury and he is a really likeable lad and just to get on it was great and when he scored, it was as if he had won the World Cup for us," said the Ireland manager.

"And I was pleased for Burke. It was nice to score a goal, and not so much for what he did in the game. It was a tough match for him but just because of his attitude in training, he wanted to score goals and put the ball in the net and he got some reward for it.

"And John has designs on coaching and management, he has a nice temperament and, in my time here, he has been excellent around the place and has a really great attitude. Players respect him greatly and he has all the attributes to sit here in the future."

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