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Monday 23 April 2018

Hoops' golden Graham

Bradley's full of praise for in-form ace Burke

Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley embraces striker Graham Burke after last Friday’s win over St Pat’s at Tallaght Stadium
Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley embraces striker Graham Burke after last Friday’s win over St Pat’s at Tallaght Stadium

He stopped short of touting his forward Graham Burke for an Ireland call-up, but Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley is more than happy with the form of the ex-Aston Villa player.

There is a heavy League of Ireland presence in the Republic's squad which today travels to Turkey for a training camp ahead of Friday's friendly in Antalya, 11 of the 25-strong panel having a background in the LOI.

Some of those links are tenuous - Alan Browne (Cork City) and Matt Doherty (Bohemians) didn't make any league appearances before their moves to England.

No current player from the league made the cut for the panel, but while talents like Kieran Sadlier (Cork City) and Dan Cleary (Dundalk) would have hopes of winning a senior cap at some stage, there was no great clamour for a home-based player to get the nod this time.

Unlike the series of friendly games last June when the then Cork City man Sean Maguire was overlooked, only getting his senior cap while on the books of Preston. Rovers forward Burke has not played at international level since he won his third and final U21 cap in 2013, but the 24-year-old has caught the eye of Hoops boss Bradley,.

"I haven't looked outside of our group. When Sean Maguire was here, when a player is good enough he's good enough," Bradley says, ahead of tonight's league game away to Limerick, if any current players from the LOI should be in contention.

"There are talented players in the league, Graham Burke, how he didn't get player of the month is beyond me, he has been unbelievable, scored how many goals, set up how many? Graham was unplayable in some games.

"I don't know who picks that award but they need to look at themselves," Bradley added, referring to the monthly award selected by the Soccer Writers Association of Ireland, which went to Cork forward Graham Cummins in February.

Burke didn't score for Rovers in Friday's win at home to St Patrick's Athletic, the Hoops winning thanks to an own goal from Kevin Toner, but he has been on form, including a four-goal return for Burke in a 6-1 win over Derry City.

Pleased

Rovers scored 12 in two games, against Bray and Derry, but needed that own goal to force the win over the Saints, yet Bradley was pleased with how his side remained patient.

"I didn't have to say much at half time against Pat's, the group knew, they had spoken about moving the ball quicker," he said. "When we won the ball back was the big issue as our first pass was going backwards, not forwards, and when you are playing against a team that wants to sit in against you, the transition is where you have to hurt them and we weren't quick enough in transition.

"In the second half against Pat's when we won the ball we went forward and it caused them problems."

This evening's opponents, Limerick, have problems of their own as they battle with a worrying injury list ahead of the visit of the Hoops, though Limerick are upbeat after Friday's draw at home to league leaders Cork.

"We have a lot of lads that are struggling. We'll probably be a young side on Monday, but we'll go into the game as enthusiastic as we can be. I look forward to it. It's important for the lads to get game-time and experience," says Limerick manager Tommy Barrett.

"Shamrock Rovers are very strong. They're stronger than they were last year. They're a good attacking threat and they have been very solid defensively this year as well. It will be tough to go again, because we wouldn't have the squads that Cork and Rovers have."

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