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Golden moment leaves Graham lost for words

Burke goal a reason for celebration.

Graham Burke was lost for words after marking his first start for the Republic of Ireland with his first senior international goal.

On a night when Ireland celebrated defender John O’Shea’s 17-year career in a green shirt, the 24-year-old Shamrock Rovers striker passed a series of landmarks in Saturday’s friendly victory over the United States.

He became the first League of Ireland player to start for the nation since Joe Gamble in 2007, and the first to score since fellow Rover Ray Treacy in 1978, and that took some processing.

Burke said: “It’s been a brilliant night for me. To start a senior game for the Republic of Ireland is an unbelievable achievement for me. To top it off with a goal, I can’t really put it into words what it means to me.

“It’s an unbelievable achievement that will stay with me forever.”

Burke, who made his debut as a substitute against France in Paris on Monday, was left out of the Rovers side which faced Dundalk on Friday night and only learned he was starting an hour before kick-off, and the reality started to dawn during the anthems at the Aviva Stadium.

He said: “That’s the moment that you dream of, isn’t it? You’re standing there in the line and the national anthem is on.

“It was long, and you want to just get it started for me with my nerves in front of the crowd and all that going on. I just wanted the game to get going in order to get my first touch and relax myself into the game.”

His big moment arrived 12 minutes into the second half when substitute Darragh Lenihan blasted a shot towards goal and Burke instinctively got a foot to the ball just as it reached the line.

He said: “I try to be a goalscorer and my instincts are to get in there and just put it in the back of the net. Darragh’s probably not happy – and he has a right to be – but as a striker, I’m never going to give up that opportunity to put the ball in the back of the net.

“That’s my job, to create things and score. I’ll never feel guilty for that. Darragh will probably have the hump with me, but as a goalscorer, I had to put it in.”

Burke’s strike cancelled out Bobby Wood’s opener and set the scene for substitute Alan Judge to fire Ireland to a 2-1 victory at the end.

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