Burke makes history with first Ireland goal

by Stephen Findlater

Shamrock Rovers Graham Burke made a piece of modern history on Saturday when he became the first League of Ireland player to score a senior goal for Ireland in 40 years.

The Shamrock Rovers striker became the first domestic-based player in a decade to play for the international side when he came on as a second-half substitute against France in Paris.

And 24-year-old Burke went one better on his first start, against the United States at the Aviva Stadium, as he scored Ireland’s equaliser in a 2-1 win.

In doing so, the former Aston Villa and Notts County goalscorer became the first home-based player to score for Ireland since Shamrock Rovers’ Ray Treacy in April 1978.

Treacy was on target twice in a 4-2 win over Turkey at Lansdowne Road on a day when his Rovers teammate John Giles was also on target.

Only a handful of home-based players have appeared for the senior team since Jack Charlton took over in 1986 – strikers Jason Byrne made a couple of appearances but couldn’t find the net.

Burke was impressive in his 59 minutes on the field and capped it off with his first international goal with what would be his final touch of the ball, being replaced by Daryl Horgan before the restart.

Burke has become renowned for scoring spectacular goals from all angles and distances for Rovers, but his first international goal may well be the easiest he’s ever scored.

Debutant Darragh Lenihan – who had replaced John O’Shea in the latter’s final appearance in a green shirt – stabbed an uncleared corner towards goal and Burke helped it over the line.

Ireland had fallen behind with the last kick of the first half when Kevin Long was beaten in the air by Matt Mizagi and Bobby Wood got a toe to the ball to beat Colin Doyle.

Burke had been one of the few bright sparks during a dull opening period in which a young and experimental away side visibly grew in confidence.

The roles were reversed in the second half and Ireland began to get on the front foot, with Declan Rice proving to be the best player on the pitch on his third international start.

Burke’s equaliser, when it came, was deserved and Ireland continued to be the more adventurous side as the clock wound down and the visitors retreated further into their own half.

Their endeavour was rewarded when Rice played in James McClean, who beat his man before leaving the ball for Dubliner Alan Judge to rifle in his first goal for Ireland off the bar.

“It was a tough game for tonight, as I expected it to be,” Ireland manager Martin O’Neill said after the game.

“I was not expecting miracles. It was lovely to see him score the goal – it’s a really great feeling. He’s a lovely kid too.

“It will give him massive confidence – one to be involved in the squad, two to score a goal.

“In terms of his involvement tonight, it passed him by for 15 or 20 minutes, just trying to get a mark in the match. Maybe it was played at a quicker pace than he was anticipating.”

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