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O'Neill to give Burke weekend to remember

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

Daniel McDonnell

For Shamrock Rovers striker Graham Burke, this will be a weekend like no other.

He will play for the Hoops against Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds tonight and then return home to Dublin ahead of a Sunday-morning trip to Glasgow, where he could play 45 minutes in Scott Brown's testimonial at Celtic Park.

It is not an official international, with the team managed by Martin O'Neill titled s Republic of Ireland XI.

But Burke will go into a dressing-room containing senior internationals such as Seamus Coleman, James McClean and Jonathan Walters ahead of a run-out at a 60,000-capacity stadium that will be in party mode if Brendan Rodgers' Celtic complete a domestic treble today. It promises to be a thrilling experience for the 24-year-old.

Some members of the 18-man squad for Glasgow will be let go after this game to facilitate the return of more established players for Monday week's friendly with France in Paris and the meeting with the USA in Dublin the following Saturday.

Commitments

Given that Burke has club commitments, he's an obvious drop-out, but O'Neill insisted: "It might depend on how he gets on. I wouldn't like to judge a player after 20 minutes - hopefully I will get him half a game or something like that.

"I do have a group of players - not many but a few - coming back from the Premier League. One or two players from this squad will definitely drop out because I can't take that many to France."

O'Neill defended his approach to players from the League of Ireland and repeated his view that Sean Maguire did not play well enough while at Cork to merit a call-up.

"There is that view seemingly that I put the players in only when they move abroad," he said.

"I saw Sean play and, let's be fair, he didn't play well enough to be included in the squad."

Maguire will be in Scotland along with his Preston club-mate Callum Robinson, whose eligibility papers are yet to go through so he cannot play in the France and USA matches.

Other uncapped members of the squad are Blackburn duo Darragh Lenihan and Derrick Williams and ex-League of Ireland trio Enda Stevens (Sheffield United), Conor O'Malley (Peterborough) and Shaun Williams (Millwall).

O'Neill has an issue in the goalkeeping department, with Keiren Westwood and Darren Randolph unavailable.

The Irish boss will speak to the Villa contingent of Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane and Scott Hogan and Fulham's Cyrus Christie about their availability, with next Saturday's Championship play-off final date their priority.

Question marks hang over Whelan's Irish future. "I will have a chat with him now that they're in the final," said O'Neill.

The 66-year-old will be hoping for a civilised end to that game, a contrast from the fraught conclusion to Ireland U-17s' penalty shootout defeat to Holland on Monday.

He escaped punishment for going on to the pitch afterwards, and says he went down to seek clarity and tell the Czech official he was disappointed with the decision to dismiss goalkeeper Jimmy Corcoran.

Ireland (squad v Celtic) - Doyle (Bradford), O'Malley (Peterborough), Coleman (Everton), Egan (Brentford), Lenihan, D Williams (both Blackburn), Stevens (Sheff U), Doherty (Wolves), McClean (West Brom), O'Kane (Leeds), Meyler (Hull), S Williams (Millwall), O'Dowda (Bristol C), Browne, Maguire, Robinson (all Preston), Burke (Shamrock Rovers), Walters (Burnley).

Irish Independent

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