O'Neill's post match comments on Burke mind boggling
By Kieran Burke - @KieranBTS.
Shamrock Rovers star, Graham Burke became the first League of Ireland player since Ray Treacy all the way back in 1978 to score an international goal for the Republic of Ireland senior team on Saturday night, as the Tallaght clubs shining light equalised against a youthful USA side at the Aviva Stadium. Having fallen behind with the very last action of an extremely dull first-half, Burke, who was making his first ever appearance in the Irish starting eleven, was somewhat fortunate to find himself in line of a team-mates already goal-bound effort before tapping home from literally centimeters out to claim a first ever international goal on just his second outing.
However, while Burke's goal was far from the most spectacular he has scored this season, it was the number twenty-fours composure and craft on the ball that caught the eye of the thirty-three-and-a-half-thousand Aviva Stadium onlookers in what was an otherwise abysmal opening period in Dublin.
If Burke's goal could be put into the lucky bracket, the timing was also of a miracle like nature as the Dubliner was replaced as soon as he had finished taking the acclaim of the home fans with former Dundalk hero, Daryl Horgan coming off the bench in place of the Shamrock Rovers star.
A first senior Ireland starting place since Cork City's Joe Gamble on the USA tour of 2007, a first Ireland goal scored by a domestically based player since 1978 and all in just Burke's second full cap as his Celtic Park appearance a fortnight ago does not statistically count as it was a testimonial encounter, you would have thought even the harshest of critic could only heap praise on the former Aston Villa youngster.
Que Ireland boss Martin O'Neill's post-match comments. While the Ireland manager stated his delighted for Burke, who he described to Eir Sport as a "lovely kid", it was O'Neill's statement that the game "somewhat passed him (Burke) by" as the game was played at a higher pace than the League of Ireland representative perhaps expected.
As a result, Eir's interviewer followed up by asking the Ireland boss if he felt Burke may need to secure a move to a "different league", and while the former Celtic boss denied ever advocating any player to move on, he failed to put doubts to bed that perhaps Burke and Bohemians goalkeeper, Graham Supple's call-ups had been nothing more than token gestures.
"I've never advocated one moving on, it's up to what one wants. He (Burke) was at Aston Villa, he was at a few different clubs and it didn't work out, he's probably got a feeling there's a second bite at it but really the rest is up to him."
Within minutes of the Ireland chief's comments on Burke, social media was awash with analysis of disbelief from people within the League of Ireland and national team supporters themselves. Cobh Ramblers manager, Stephen Henderson labbeled O'Neill's thoughts on Burke as being "beggars belief."
Honestly nothing to do with the lad been a LoI player. The boy showed up and constantly looked for the ball— Stephen Henderson (@stevehendo07) June 2, 2018
Starting in what appeared to be a traditional number ten role, behind a leggy looking Jon Walters, Burke was often forced to play in wide positions inside the opening quarter of the game as his Irish team-mates struggled to get a hold of possession against an energetic United States. However, when Burke was all to rarely picked out in advanced positions the Dublin native showed a much-needed sense of calmness and composure on the ball as he not only looked to retain possession but to pick the right pass, often a positive forward one. How such a showing could lead to what looked to be claims of being off the pace of what was a drab friendly encounter naturally brought much questioning from Irish supporters online.
This is staggering from O’Neill. Those 15 minutes were spent picking up good positions all over the pitch and his team mates failing to deliver the ball to him.— Cian Mc Mahon (@McMahon1991) June 2, 2018
That is true but Martin O’Neill is just wrong here. Even Gary Breen broke down the good positions Burke was getting into. Why single him out when McClean was looking like a Sunday league player running down the wing— Kieran (@The_Irishkieran) June 2, 2018
Martin O'Neill's ultra-direct style of play has always been a talking point among the media and Ireland fans alike but even more so following this year's World Cup play-offs disaster, where the former Aston Villa boss was caught out badly by some poor decision making against a ruthless Dennmark side at the Aviva Stadium. Both friendlies played out before the game with the U.S were equally dull affairs from an Irish perspective as O'Neill showed no intention of changing up his defensive approach against Turkey and France respectively. And perhaps that is why O'Neill's comments on Burke should come as no surprise? The running saga of Wes in or Wes out was ended for the Ireland boss when Holohan decided to hang up his international boots following the Danish disaster and with some touting Burke as a possible natural replacement for the former Shelbourne dynamo, is it totally inconceivable that O'Neill sees the Rovers man as something of a luxury player that won't fit into his system long term? I guess we will have to wait and see, as we will on Graham Burke's club future with a long list of cross channel clubs surely set to swoop for Shamrock Rovers most prized asset in the coming weeks.
What did you make of Graham Burke's performance at the Aviva Stadium tonight? Was Martin O'Neill right to make such comments post-match regarding the Shamrock Rovers man? Tweet us your thoughts on @BetweenStripes.