A dream night for Graham Burke in Paris

Tue, May 29 2018

While the result didn’t go Ireland’s way in Paris on Monday night, Martin O’Neill managed to blood three new Boys in Green as he handed out a trio of new caps.

Derrick Williams started and Shaun Williams came on as a late substitute but the eye catching debut was for Shamrock Rovers’ Graham Burke.

The talented 24-year-old became the first League of Ireland player to get a cap for Ireland since Cork City’s Joe Gamble in 2007.

Burke became not the first Rovers player to play for Ireland, but the first since Pat Byrne 32 years ago.

Speaking in the post-match press conference his manager noted that “Graham was naturally delighted to get a call to come on and that is a great news for him, great news for his club and a great boost for the League of Ireland as well too.

“He deserved this opportunity to get onto the field of play. It will be a big big boost of confidence for him surely to be in that sort of company.

Burke described his 20-minute appearance for Ireland “as a dream come true” when he spoke to RTÉ after the match.

His first touch sent Ireland on one of their few forays into the French half and the Hoops player didn’t look out of place out on the pitch.

“It is a brilliant feeling,” continued Burke. “I’m over the moon and I can’t really put it into words right now. I’m proud to say that I’ve got a senior cap for the Republic of Ireland.

“I was told to go out and warm up and then I got the call from the sideline to say that I was going to be coming on. The heart started beating faster but to get on the pitch was brilliant.”

In truth though Ireland were well beaten. The positives came from not conceding in the second half and getting game time for the likes of Derrick Williams and Declan Rice, who earned his second international cap.

O’Neill said: “if you think that a young League of Ireland player comes on in the game, that was a big experience for him and a big experience for Derrick Williams too and for a number of the players who are starting playing in an Irish shirt for first time.

“Declan, for one so young who hasn’t played that many games, I think he adapted and he gave his best. Against that sort of opposition, it can only help his game.

“At this young age, what you have to aspire to, the benchmark, is the World Cup level.

“We are talking about opposition players playing in European Champions League games, Europa League matches and the very best clubs in Europe. Declan in there in centre midfield was in there playing against them.”

O’Neill certainly believes that Deschamps’ French team can challenge to win the World Cup in Russia.

“I think France are very strong. Individually they have a lot of talent in their team. They are one of the favourites for the World Cup. They have improved in the last two years.

“I thought that we were naturally second best this evening against a world class team. That was possibly to be expected.

“I think that it was a really really tough game and that is also to be expected but I’m pleased we have taken this fixture on.

“The one thing we can improve on is although we defended very strongly but conceded maybe two bad goals. Our use of the ball when we have it can improve.

Deschamps was a happy manager speaking to the press afterwards as his team won with ease, and came through the friendly without picking up any injuries in a match where the conditions caused difficulty, particularly towards the end of the 90 minutes.

“We had good control of the game,” said Deschamps.

“We let them run a lot. We scored at the end of the first half and we had a fair amount of movement within the team so that is all good.

“It was complicated with such a heavy rain. The ball doesn’t roll the way it should. We saw that with the final attack. It was hard for us but it was hard for Ireland as well. It wasn't an ideal situation.”