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Sunday 17 November 2019

Rare old times in Dublin for Burke

Aviva experience with Irish side is a boost for Graham

BUZZ: Graham Burke is looking forward to lining out with Shamrock Rovers against Dundalk in the FAI Cup final on Sunday. Pic: Sportsfile
BUZZ: Graham Burke is looking forward to lining out with Shamrock Rovers against Dundalk in the FAI Cup final on Sunday. Pic: Sportsfile

Scoring for Ireland in his home town of Dublin was the stuff of boyhood dreams for Graham Burke.

But the forward still has goals to aim for, one very important one coming this weekend on the same patch of grass in Dublin 4 where he marked his one - and to date only - home game for Ireland's senior team by finding the back of the net.

Getting back into that Irish squad remains a target for the 24-year-old, whose cross-channel career is on hold due to his loan move from Preston back to Shamrock Rovers. But first up is a desire to end the Hoops' long wait for an FAI Cup success.

"I have been here three years, I wanted to win things here, wanted to win the league and the cup," Burke told The Herald.

"We have worked hard to get where we are, to make Rovers the best team in the league, but to do that you need to win something.

"No one remembers teams who don't win. You don't want to be a team where people say 'oh they played good football but never won anything' so it's up to us to go and win something for the fans.

"It's nine years since Rovers were last in a Cup final, a lot longer since they won the Cup. You can feel it from the fans how desperate they are to win it, and we want to make it happen for them."

Annual visit

Dundalk may claim that they own Lansdowne Road due to their annual visit for the Cup final over the last five years but Burke also knows the place well, having scored for Ireland there against the USA only last year.

"Playing in the Aviva is something else. It was a completely different occasion. I never really expected to be there, to play for my country in Dublin, and to start on Sunday, if I am picked, will be great for me," he says.

"You grow up thinking of things you want to do, play for United or Liverpool, but you really want to play for Ireland.

"I have achieved that three times now, scored once, and I want to do it again.

"There's nothing stopping me from doing it again, the only thing stopping me is myself. I have to show I can do it. I have been in the league for a while. I got the opportunity when I was in the league the first time and I can do it again. It's not gone for me, it's not in the past, it's still there for me."

He will lean on his experience of the venue for Sunday.

"It will be a help, knowing the environment and having played in the Aviva, that walk from the dressing rooms out onto the pitch. It can help you but it won't win the game for you, as Dundalk have been there before. It's a massive occasion and we can't wait," he says.

"We have experience in the squad, Finner (Ronan Finn) has been there and won cup finals, Greg Bolger has played in big games, Jack Byrne has played for Ireland, they have been there and if we can carry that into the game on Sunday it will all help. But we still have to play well on the day."

If things had gone to plan with his move to England, Burke would this week be training with Preston ahead of Sunday's game away to Charlton, with the Lancashire club second in the Championship table. Instead he's back home, on a 12-month loan deal.

But Dublin suits the former Aston Villa player. He jokes that his home place, in the north inner city, is enemy territory, is usually associated with their rivals Bohemians (their vanquished opponents in the Cup semi-final) but there's still a buzz around the city for Sunday.

"Yeah, where I am from is Bohs territory. I can walk to Dalymount in ten minutes from my house," he says.

"But people around here know me, know I am in the final, they still want me to do well. They want their kids to see an inner-city lad who is going to play in the final and do well.

"Me and Sean Kavanagh are the inner-city boys, though he's from D4, the posh side," Burke jokes, poking fun at Ringsend man Kavanagh.

"It's a massive occasion, I always wanted to play in the final."

It was a ploy by manager Stephen Bradley to get side issues like ticket allocation and Cup final suits out of the way last week, allowoing the players focus on the game and not get swayed by the occasion.

"It's a good time to be here. We're trying to treat it like a normal week, for a normal game," Burke says.

"After we beat Bohs in the semi, we had three league games to play so the focus was on that. It was only once the league was out of the way we could think about the final.

"It's nice getting fitted for the suits. It's a special feeling. You see the excitement and you know it's a big deal, for the club as well as the players.

"People do stop you in the street to say they're looking forward to the final. We know what this means to the fans. We also know that Dundalk are hard to beat but we want to do it for our supporters."

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