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Has Graham Burke done enough to become a regular in the Ireland squad?

Martin O’Neill praised the Shamrock Rovers star after he scored his first international goal tonight.

Graham Burke celebrates his goal with Darragh Lenihan.
Graham Burke celebrates his goal with Darragh Lenihan.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

MARTIN O’NEILL HAILED Graham Burke for his goal-scoring performance but also added a note of caution in relation to the Shamrock Rovers youngster after Ireland beat USA 2-1 at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday night.

The 24-year-old’s goal made him the first League of Ireland player to score for the Boys in Green for over 40 years, with another Shamrock Rovers favourite, Ray Treacy, finding the net against Turkey in April 1978.

“I have to say that I’m pleased for Burke,” O’Neill said. “It was nice to score a goal, nice for him. It wasn’t so much maybe for what he did in the game — I thought the game perhaps was a tough match for him, which I expected — but just because of his attitude in training.

“I know training is totally different to the game itself, but wanting to try to score goals, wanting to try to put the ball in the net.

Of course it’s rare [for a League of Ireland player] and I think that’s just pleasing for the lad for a start and pleasing for the club. I just want to say thanks to them. They suffered a defeat last night [against Dundalk] – I was able to get to the second half.

“He’s a good player for them to miss out, and to lose the game in the fashion they did, I have to say a big thank you to them tonight for not playing him in a game which was of great importance to them.”

Asked whether Burke had done enough in the last few days to convince him that he was worthy of a regular place in the squad, O’Neill was non-committal in his response.

It’s entirely up to him. His attitude training is great, it was quite quick tonight at times for him in the first half.

“Some of it was maybe a bit strange for him as I expect it to be. Whatever he has designs on, I think he has to try and push on. If he wants to go back to play in England, these things would only give him the biggest boost of confidence he can get. I’ll keep an eye on things and see how he goes. I’m really delighted for him.”

Burke was not the only player O’Neill was happy with. He hailed man-of-the-match Declan Rice as the “most outstanding player, probably on the pitch”.

Yet most of all, the night will be remembered as being the final appearance of an Irish legend — John O’Shea.

“He’s got designs on coaching and managing and that’s no bad thing,” O’Neill said. “He’s got a really nice temperament. All I will say is that in my time here he’s been excellent around the place, a really great attitude, players respect him greatly for what he’s done in the game. That was why after the Euros, I really did want him to stay on.

“I knew that perhaps as younger players came in, he might play fewer games for us. Just his presence around the place was with that. I’m obviously delighted for him and I think, yeah, there’s nothing to say that he couldn’t be a future, a terrific manager, coach. He’s worked with the very best. I think he’s got all the attributes.”

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Player ratings: How the Boys in Green fared against the US>

‘He’s had a really tough time. He thought his career was over’>

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Paul Fennessy

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