Rovers star in dreamland af­ter un­ex­pected Ire­land call-up

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - 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 1617 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.

Sham­rock Rovers for­ward Gra­ham Burke

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