Tuesday 26 March 2019

Burke has blazed a trail for league's class acts

Benson believes home-based players good enough for Ireland

Green scene: Graham Burke in action for Ireland against the USA last Saturday
Green scene: Graham Burke in action for Ireland against the USA last Saturday
Dundalk star Robbie Benson

They are rivals when it comes to points and prizes, but the arrival of Shamrock Rovers man Graham Burke on the international stage with the national team has given hope to other home-based talents, according to Dundalk star Robbie Benson.

Exactly how long Burke remains a League of Ireland player is in doubt as the player is almost certain to seal a move to Championship side Preston before the English season starts in August.

Burke managed to get capped while on the books of a League of Ireland club, something which was beyond the likes of Seán Maguire, Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle.

Dundalk boss Kenny has been reluctant to single out individual players in terms of a possible call-up but he has touted the claims of his attacking players, especially Jamie McGrath (21) and Michael Duffy (23).

Having turned 26 last month, Athlone native Benson may no longer be considered a young player but he still has ambitions: he played in the green jersey before but the well ran dry early on.

"I played from U15 level up but the U18 schools side was the last time I played. The further up the ladder you go, the harder it is to get there," he says ahead of Dundalk's battle with Limerick tonight.

"Graham Burke was in the squad on merit and it was good to see but there are more players in this league who are capable of playing for Ireland and that would be great to see.

"And hopefully Graham can blaze a trail for us. Roy Keane was in Tallaght to see us against Rovers last week, he'd have seen Jamie McGrath, Mickey Duffy and Pat Hoban who were excellent.

"Graham has had a hell of a season and it's no surprise to anyone who played against him over the years that he made an impact in the games last week," added Benson.

"If you are a good player, you are a good player no matter the level you are playing at and he is quality. There are lots of players in this league who are capable of stepping up to the mark.

"There are good players in this league and I don't see myself as being inferior to anyone, but I have a lot of work to do," added Benson when asked about his own chances, admitting that he was below par when under the eye of Roy Keane in last week's win over Shamrock Rovers.

"I had a decent second half but my first half performance wasn't good enough. I'm not thinking of it too much, I just want to do well for Dundalk and anything else that happens is a bonus."

Dundalk and Cork have of course shared out the major honours for the last five seasons and the 2018 league title is already a two-horse race, with a 13-point gap between Dundalk (in second) and third-placed Waterford, as the likes of Waterford, Derry City, St Pat's and Shamrock Rovers have been unable to keep up.

"The last run of games really created a gap as ourselves and Cork went on a run and none of the other teams were able to do that, it just goes to show the strength of the squads with ourselves and Cork," says Benson.

"We have the squads to deal with the fixture list, people say it's unfair on teams who don't have the same resources as us but you can't punish us and Cork for having our house in order."

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