Saturday 25 May 2019

Ireland's goal heroes target more call-ups from Irish boss

SHEER JOY: Alan Judge celebrates his winning goal
SHEER JOY: Alan Judge celebrates his winning goal

His debut, his first start and now his first international goal are all ticked off the 'to-do' list.

And although it's back to the bread and butter of training with his Shamrock Rovers team-mates in Dublin this morning, Graham Burke says he has every intention of keeping his place in the Ireland squad once the Nations League qualifiers come around in September.

Burke was in Copenhagen, as a regular supporter with a scarf around his neck, when Ireland played in the first leg of that ill-fated World Cup play-off against Denmark but the 24-year-old was centre stage on Saturday night, as he got a touch to a shot from fellow Belvedere old boy Darragh Lenihan to score Ireland's equaliser in what turned out to be a 2-1 win over the USA.

History was being made all around, Burke the first home-based player to start in a home international since 1986, and the first League of Ireland player to score for Ireland since Ray Treacy in 1978.

The most recent home-based strikers to get capped, Jason Byrne and Glen Crowe, never managed to play in a competitive game for their country but Burke has September and the squad firmly in his sights.

"That's the ambition, to play as many games for Ireland. That's my new challenge now, to get in Martin's squad whenever that will be, that's my ambition now," Burke said as he prepared to leave the Ireland squad and rejoin the Rovers camp ahead of their next game, at home to Bray Wanderers on Saturday.

"I'm going to be ambitious and work hard to try and get in Martin's squad for the upcoming games.

"I'm very happy with how I trained. I think me starting showed that I had, Martin had shown faith in me after what he saw over the week and that was enough for him to start me, I thank him for that.

"He said well done because I scored. I go on goals, that's a big part of my game, to come off the pitch having scored, I feel like I done my job.

"It gives me massive confidence, playing with these boys. I'll relish it, I'll learn from it, I'll take it with me back to Shamrock Rovers," added Burke, who insists that his new-found status as an Ireland scorer won't give him notions.

"I don't see what's going to change. Nothing changes, I still go about my day-to-day life the same way as I do, people say it's an unbelievable achievement, it doesn't change anything in my day-to-day life."

FINAL CALL: John O’Shea bids farewell to the crowd after his final game in an Ireland shirt
FINAL CALL: John O’Shea bids farewell to the crowd after his final game in an Ireland shirt

While Burke's goal came early in his career, the man who netted the winner for Ireland is at another phase in his life, Alan Judge scoring his first international goal at the age of 29.

Scoring at Lansdowne Road was always going to be emotional for Judge as his dad, Dermot, won an FAI Cup medal with Bray Wanderers there back in 1990.

"I was two and a mascot for the game, it's crazy how things move on," Judge reflects.

But a goal, any goal, would be memorable for the player who lost almost two years of his career due to a broken leg.

Judge's nice finish for the winner against the USA was his first goal at any level since February 2016 as he suffered that nasty injury two months later.

"This is what I've been waiting for, something just like that. Whether it was a goal for Brentford or Ireland, the fact I've scored in my first game back for Ireland, well, first game at home, was unbelievable," says Judge, an 88th minute sub for Callum O'Dowda, only his fourth senior cap.

"I know it's only a friendly but for someone who has been out as long as I have, as Séamus (Coleman) will tell you, it means a lot. I just wanted to touch the ball. I didn't want to come on and not touch it.

"When I scored, Jonny (Walters) was telling me to milk the celebration but that's not me, I wanted to get back and get another touch of the ball.

"All the lads have been brilliant with me since I've come back. They've given me such confidence in the way I've been training and if you told me at the start of January that I'd have another three caps to my name, I wouldn't have believed you."

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