Graham Burke has made his name with some spectacular strikes for Shamrock Rovers but few goals can have given him as much joy as the routine tap-in with which he equalised for Ireland against the USA on Saturday, making him the first home-based player to score for his country since the late Ray Treacy in 1978.
Darragh Lenihan’s shot at the Aviva was never going anywhere other than into the back of the net but, equally, Burke was never going to spurn the opportunity to claim his first goal for his country.
“If you look at the replay it’s my goal,” he says. “The ball comes to you two yards from goal, you’ve got to get a touch on it, that’s the thinking behind it – to tap it in the back of the net. As Darragh hit it, I’m thinking ‘where’s it going to land, is he going to hit the target, is he not?’ Lucky enough he hit the target but it was coming directly at my feet, so I just got the final touch.
“It was a proud moment and to hear that it’s been 40 years since somebody from the League of Ireland has scored a goal for Ireland makes it even sweeter. These lads (in the Irish team) are playing in the Premier League, and the Championship, at the highest level, and for me to say that I came in from the League of Ireland and scored for my country and even started for my country, it’s an unbelievable achievement and it shows all the boys in Ireland that if you... work hard, it can happen.”
The Dubliner reckons he had about 50 friends and family on hand at the Aviva to see him make his international debut on home soil but it was to a brace of fellow Hoops in the crowd that he went to share his goal celebration.
“I didn’t know exactly where the family was but I’d seen Lukey (Luke Byrne) and Boydy (Seán Boyd) when the national anthem was on,” he smiles. “So that was why, when I scored, I gave the fist pump up to them. To see them come down and support me, I thank them for that.”
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