Friday 20 September 2019

Rovers star in dreamland after unexpected Ireland call-up

Shamrock Rovers forward Graham Burke. Photo:Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Shamrock Rovers forward Graham Burke. Photo:Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Graham Burke is a player who, following on from his call-up to the Ireland squad, is about to take his talents to a wider stage than the League of Ireland scene he's involved in right now.

But the man from Dublin's north inner city discovered that he was in the Ireland squad just like the regular punter, as a post-training spot of lunch on Thursday was interrupted by word that Ireland had come calling, Martin O'Neill including the Shamrock Rovers man in a 40-man squad for a three-game series, starting with the Scott Brown testimonial in Glasgow next Sunday.

"I actually found out through Twitter, having my lunch. The squad had just been announced and it popped up, a picture and I seen it first. I couldn't believe it. I didn't actually believe it," says Burke, who underlined his value to Rovers yet again on Friday night when he scored the equalising goal which gave the Hoops a 1-1 draw at home to Waterford.

"It's a dream come true. Any kid growing up wants to play for Ireland. I don't know, I'm not saying I'm going to get any game time. But to have your name in a squad, it's an unbelievable achievement for myself."

Burke (24) is a model for the notion of a player who finds himself at a low ebb in England but manages to turn his career around back in the League of Ireland, as the Dubliner had struggled at Notts County following his 2015 exit from Aston Villa.

"If you went back and told me then that this would happen, I wouldn't have believed you. They were, in football terms, the down days, I was thinking of that. If you told me what would happen, I would have told you not a hope in hell," says Burke of his Notts County days.

"I never thought it would have happened, coming home, telling me a year later, after last year with the sendings-off and having the injury and only be 16-17 games into this season, that would have happened, I would never have believed it."

A Shamrock Rovers player has not appeared for Ireland at senior level since Pat Byrne in 1986 but there are a few issues to be dealt with before Burke can bridge that gap.

His best chance of involvement with the national team is Sunday's testimonial in Scotland, which is not a full international. But Rovers are in action the night before that game, away to Sligo Rovers, so an appearance at Parkhead could involve a red-eye flight on Sunday morning, and Rovers play again the following Tuesday.

Should O'Neill decide to take Burke to Paris for the friendly against France, that game (a Monday night fixture) comes in between vital league matches against Bohemians and Dundalk.

"I don't know what the arrangement is going to be. Whatever the arrangement is, it's going to happen and that's what I'm going to do," says Burke.

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