Shamrock Rovers striker Graham Burke is determined to get back to full fitness and help his side seal a third successive league title as the Hoops host UCD tonight.
The 29-year-old has been sidelined for several weeks with a calf injury, starting just three of the last ten league games, while he is yet to start a Conference League group game.
The Ireland international is one of several key players manager Stephen Bradley has had to plan without during this term, with Jack Byrne and Roberto Lopes also suffering lengthy injury set-backs.
Burke has not been training much in recent weeks due to a relentless fixture schedule but is savouring the remaining games.
“I’ve missed a lot of this season. It’s been disappointing,” Burke said. “I haven’t really trained much because the games are coming so thick and fast. I’m just moving up my minutes through the games rather than training. I don’t know how many games I’ve featured in, but it doesn’t feel like many to me.
“That’s the cards I’ve been dealt and I’ve worked hard to get back from a calf injury. I’m coming back now, trying to get myself up to speed.
“It wouldn’t be where the lads would be. I look after myself off the pitch, I have a good base of fitness behind me, being a football player for so many years. I don’t feel miles off it.
“I’ll get stronger and fitter, but I back my football ability, my touch and awareness of what is around me. I’m big on that.”
Following Thursday’s 0-0 stalemate against Shelbourne, Rovers stayed just ahead of second-placed Derry City before the visit of the Students. Bradley’s side will extend their lead at the top to five points should they win their game in hand tonight.
“We’re in a great position now,” Burke said. “It’s coming to a point where you take it, move on and roll into UCD. You just have to get points on the board.”
SHAMROCK ROVERS v UCD
(Tallaght Stadium, 8.0)
Team news: Rovers defender Lee Grace is back from suspension. Seán Hoare and Roberto Lopes may return from injury. Andy Lyons and Justin Ferizaj are unavailable due to international duty.
Talking point: The Hoops can extend their lead on second-place Derry to five points with a victory. Rovers come into the game with one win in six in all competitions but have defeated the Students 3-0 in both of their previous meetings this term.
Ref: K O’Sullivan.
Odds: Rovers 1/10, UCD 18/1, Draw 7/1.
Verdict: Home win.