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World Cup 2018

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Home Sport Football

Burke could make Republic of Ireland breakthrough

The Shamrock Rovers striker has been released from club duty to play for his country.

Graham Burke could become the first League of Ireland player to start for the Republic of Ireland in 11 years if he gets the nod against the United States on Saturday evening.

The 24-year-old Shamrock Rovers striker made his senior Republic debut as a substitute in the 2-0 defeat in France on Monday night, but with Shane Long struggling with a knee injury and Jonathan Walters manager Martin O’Neill’s only other option, Burke has a chance.

He would be the first player playing his trade in Ireland’s domestic league to start a game for his country since Joe Gamble lined up against Bolivia in 2007.

O’Neill was coy over whether or not Burke would make the XI at his pre-match press conference, but said: “We’ll have a look at it. I haven’t picked the side, but he’ll certainly participate in the game and hopefully for a decent period.”

Burke, who has had spells at Aston Villa, Shrewsbury and Notts County, was due to play for Rovers in their league clash with Dundalk on Friday evening, but O’Neill revealed he had been voluntarily released by his club to give him the chance to make the most of a remarkable week or so.

He said: “It was a nice gesture of Shamrock Rovers for him not to play a very, very important game this evening. They were the ones, I didn’t put it to them, I didn’t ask them that.

“He’s done very well in training, very well indeed. He’s got a really nice touch and the boy is comfortable with it, which is good.

“I have said to him this should give him an amazing boost of confidence for a start, and secondly if he really wants to return to the game across the (Irish Sea) and really make it, this has been some sort of platform for him.

“He’s a really nice lad, wants to do well and is really keen. Honestly, he has done very, very well in training. He’s taken things in his stride, I don’t think he’s been over-awed by anything.

“I think his experience, good and bad, in England for the number of years that he played there, the different clubs, the managers who liked him, the managers who didn’t like him, all of that has stood him in good stead and I think he’s ready to go again.”

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