Shamrock Rovers striker Graham Burke included in Ireland squad for summer friendlies
Graham Burke of Shamrock Rovers is the surprise inclusion in Martin O'Neill's Irish squad for three end-of-season matches against a Celtic XI, France and the USA.
Burke comes in with Conor O'Malley, the Peterborough goalkeeper, midfielder Shaun Williams of Millwall and winger Callum Robinson of Preston as O'Neill spreads his net looking for international quality players.
O'Neill was in Tallaght recently to watch striker Burke as he shone for Shamrock Rovers in their 3-0 win over Cork City.
John O'Shea's retirement is the latest changing of the guard for the Irish team as O'Neill prepares for the Europa League against Wales and Denmark in the Autumn and the Euro 2020 qualifiers next year.
O'Shea is one of a number of players who will be given the chance to say goodbye to Ireland's supporters at the game against the United States in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, June 2. Indeed O'Neill confirmed the ex-Manchester United man will captain the team on that occasion.
With the likes of Jon Walters, James McCarthy and Robbie Brady absent through injury, and other players occupied, initially anyway, by the Championship play-offs, the value of the three matches has to be questionable.
But if Burke or one of the others shows O'Neill and Roy Keane something they didn't already know, then the matches will have proved worth the post-season effort.
O'Neill confirmed that Robinson would only play in Parkhead. "It is taking time to get Callum's papers in order. He can play against Celtic as it is only a Testimonial, but not against France and USA. But it will be good to see him in action with us. I watched him play for Preston alongside Seanie Maguire a couple of games ago and was impressed, so it is good that he wants to be with us."
Walters is included in the squad, but the manager is not hopeful of the player actually joining up. "He has had lots of injuries, and I don't know if this weekend's game with Bournemouth will come too soon for him. I'm going to Burnley v Bournmouth in the hope that he might play, even if only for a few minutes."
Another Burnley player, Stephen Ward, is not in the squad as O'Neill has given the left-full a full summer off to recuperate a succession of knee injuries. "He's on 49 caps, so he'll probably be mad at me, but I do think Stephen needs the time to rest up and get ready for next season."
Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph (Middlesbrough), Keiren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday), Colin Doyle (Bradford City), Kieran O'Hara (Manchester United), Ian Lawlor (Doncaster Rovers), Conor O'Malley (Peterborough United)
Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Cyrus Christie (Fulham), Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Alex Pearce, Richard Keogh (Derby County), John Egan (Brentford), Shane Duffy (Brighton & Hove Albion), Ciaran Clark (Newcastle United), Declan Rice (West Ham United), Kevin Long (Burnley), John O'Shea (Sunderland), Darragh Lenihan, Derrick Williams (Blackburn Rovers), Enda Stevens (Sheffield United), Greg Cunningham (Preston North End)
Midfielders: Alan Judge (Brentford), Conor Hourihane, Glenn Whelan (Aston Villa), Jeff Hendrick (Burnley), Harry Arter (Bournemouth), Eunan O'Kane (Leeds United), David Meyler (Hull City), Shaun Williams (Millwall), Alan Browne, Daryl Horgan (Preston North End), Callum O'Dowda (Bristol City), James McClean (West Bromwich Albion),
Forwards: Jonathan Walters (Burnley), Shane Long (Southampton), Scott Hogan (Aston Villa), Aiden O'Brien (Millwall), Sean Maguire, Callum Robinson (Preston North End), Graham Burke (Shamrock Rovers)