Martin O’Neill: Graham Burke will double up for Shamrock Rovers and Ireland

Assuming he comes through tonight’s game away to Sligo Rovers unscathed, Shamrock Rovers hotshot Graham Burke is set to feature in the Irish team which will take on a Celtic XI in Scott Brown’s testimonial game at Parkhead tomorrow (kick-off 2pm).

“Young Burke will play for Shamrock Rovers on Saturday night and then he’ll join us on the Sunday,” Martin O’Neill confirmed yesterday.

“He’ll definitely play a part, absolutely. I don’t see it being a big problem. I might have a couple of the physiotherapists telling me it’s not the right thing to do. But if he comes out of (tonight’s) game injury-free, he’ll want to play some part in the match.”

Whether Burke is retained for the friendlies against France and the USA remains to be seen.

“I’ll have a look at it,” said the manager. “It might depend on how he gets on. I wouldn’t like to judge a player after 20 minutes, so hopefully we’ll try and get him a half a game or something like that.”

Responding to the suggestion Burke’s call-up might represent something of a change of tack, the manager defended his selection policy in relation to League of Ireland players.

“I have included LOI players, I included the goalkeeper (Gary Rogers) at the end of the day, so I don’t think you can level that at me,” he said. “There is that view, seemingly, that I only put the players in when they move abroad. I didn’t do that. I saw Sean Maguire play and, let’s be fair, Sean didn’t play well enough to be included in the squad.

“I don’t think you can just include every single LOI player when they play well in two of three games. There is a fairly decent chance that if you are playing at the top echelon of the game you are probably going to impress a bit more. Sean didn’t play well in the games I saw him play in. It wasn’t to do with the fact that he moved to Preston but what he was doing when he moved to Preston: He regularly played better.

“Graham Burke was a kid when I went to Aston Villa. (Irish goalkeeping coach) Seamus McDonagh tells me that, in 2010, I might even have included him in a Sunday game which had a sprinkling of first-team players in a pre-season friendly. So I didn’t wait for him to go back. It’s not my fault that he’s back playing for Shamrock Rovers. Sometimes the player might want to have a think about that.”

O’Neill will also take the opportunity of today’s game to give a run-out to Callum Robinson, the Preston striker who will not be available for the forthcoming international friendlies since ratification of his decision to declare for the Republic has yet to be finalised.

“I think the obvious thing is that we must use some games here to see if we can engineer a few goals,” said O’Neill. I’m looking to see him go out and try to express himself, first of all, and if he can impress in the game then by the time his papers come through at least he’s had some experience of the squad and he can try and push on from there, if that’s possible.”

There will be a number of additions to, and subtractions from, the Celtic squad for the France and USA games, with selection matters complicated by injuries to Darren Randolph, Keiren Westwood, and Ciaran Clark — all definitely ruled out — and the involvement of Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane, Scott Hogan, and Cyrus Christie in the Championship play-off final.

But O’Neill said that he had never considered a call-up for Troy Parrott who made such an impact as a goalscorer for Ireland at the U17 European Championships in England.

“No, no. He’s 16 years of age. I think he’s eligible next year for the U17s, although he might be bumped up. But, no, he had that tournament to play in and, in fairness, if they’d got through — which they could have done — they would have been playing in the final on Sunday.”

The controversial manner in which the Irish exited at the quarter-finals brought Martin O’Neill down from the stands in Chesterfield last Monday to remonstrate with referee Zbynek Proske, after the sending-off of goalkeeper Jimmy Corcoran and a re-taken spot kick saw the Dutch prevail at the expense of Colin O’Brien’s side.

What did he say to the ref?

“Oh, I just said it was a very disappointing decision. First of all. I don’t think people were certain why he was sent off. It was a second yellow card.

“People had to cast their mind back: Did they remember if he was booked in the first place? Was it for over-exuberation for saving the penalty? That was a train of thought for a moment. And then we found out it was because he moved off the line. But you look at it and look at the save the Dutch goalkeeper made from the first penalty, there was nothing between them. Nothing. These are kids, U17s, it was a really big call by the referee. He didn’t say anything (to me), no.”

O’Neill and Roy Keane visited the Irish dressing room afterwards to commiserate with the players.

“Obviously, it was a scene of devastation,” O’Neill said. “The young boys were absolutely in bits, the disappointment etched in their faces. A few of them with tears in their eyes. It was a really controversial, disappointing way to end a game.”

Ireland squad v Celtic: Colin Doyle, Conor O’Malley, Darragh Lenihan, Derrick Williams, John Egan, Shaun Willians, Matt Doherty, Enda Stevens, Callum O’Dowda, Jon Walters, Seamus Coleman, David Meyler, Eunan O’Kane, Alan Browne, James McClean, Sean Maguire, Callum Robinson, Graham Burke


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