Football | Can Graham Burke emulate Sean Maguire?

Football | Can Graham Burke emulate Sean Maguire?
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The SSE Airtricity League top scorer charts make for interesting reading.

Graham Burke, Graham Cummins, Pat Hoban, Adam Morgan.

The League of Ireland has become something of a haven for strikers who had lost their way across the sea.

Sean Maguire – who scored in his third consecutive game for Preston yesterday – rebuilt his career in Ireland after failing to make an impact during his first spell in English football.

Graham Burke, who leads the scoring charts after three games, is a player who will be hoping to emulate the former Cork City striker.

The Shamrock Rovers striker has scored five goals already this season, equalling his entire league tally from last year’s campaign.

Burke, 24, plundered four goals on Friday night as Rovers demolished Derry City 6-1 in Tallaght, and scored a 30 yard screamer against Bray in his previous game for the Hoops.

Big things were expected from the 24 year old when he burst on to the scene at Aston Villa.

Burke finished as top scorer in the 2013 NextGen Series youth tournament, and scored both goals in the final as Villa beat Chelsea 2-0 to be crowned European champions.

The Irish striker finished as top scorer in a tournament containing the likes of Kingsley Coman and Raheem Sterling, and Burke seemed destined for big things at the Premier League club.

His underage performances for Villa earned him a call up to the Republic of Ireland U21’s, and made his debut for Noel King’s side shortly afterwards.

He made his first team debut for the clarets and blues against Tranmere Rovers in 2012, but struggled to break into the first team squad under Paul Lambert, as Villa battled to avoid relegation season by season.

The former Belvedere youth was sent on loan to Shrewsbury Town, a move which didn’t work out for the academy graduate.

His next loan destination was Notts County, where he played 10 out of a possible 13 games. When Villa released him, Notts County snapped up the talented Irishman on a permanent contract.

He scored five goals in 52 appearances for the club – including a stunning strike against his old club Villa in the FA Cup – but a managerial change at the club hampered Burke’s progress, and he decided to return to his home city to sign for Shamrock Rovers at the beginning of last season.

“After six months at Notts County, I was doing well,” he explained to Goal last year.

“But then the manager got sacked, and a new manager comes in. I wasn’t even figuring for the next six months. I had to make another decision. I wasn’t enjoying it. So, at least I know if I go back to Ireland, and around family and be happy. If I’m happier, I’ll perform better.”

His Shamrock Rovers debut was eventful to put it mildly.

Burke came off the bench against Dundalk at Oriel Park in the 70th minute, and soon found the back of the net with a deflected effort to halve the Lilywhites’ lead.

A few minutes later, however, the 24 year old was shown a straight red for a shocking tackle on Dundalk’s Jamie McGrath.

The former Aston Villa striker’s debut season was marred by injury and needless suspensions, but Burke managed nine goals for the Hoops, including three in the Europa League.

However, after scoring five goals in three matches so far this season, Burke will be expecting to comfortably better last season’s tally for the Dublin club.

“He was excellent,” Rovers boss Stephen Bradley said after Burke’s four goals on Friday.

“To be honest, I’ve seen him play better in terms of his all-round game. I’m delighted he’s adding goals because sometimes last year, he was brilliant the other way in terms of creating, doing everything, but not scoring.

“But tonight, he goes and gets himself four goals, he scores last week, I’m delighted he’s added goals to his game.”

Foreign clubs are turning to Ireland on a more regular basis when looking at transfers, and there have been a number of high profile departures from the SSE Airtricity League in recent seasons.

Richie Towell, Daryl Horgan, Andy Boyle, Sean Maguire, Kevin O’Connor, Pat McEleny, and David McMillan have all been snapped up by British clubs, and Burke may also feel that he has unfinished business across the water.

On Friday, Burke became the first Shamrock Rovers player to score four goals in one game since Stephen Geoghegan against Waterford in 1992, and he will be hoping to break more records with the Hoops.

“Why can’t I be the top goalscorer? What’s stopping me being the top goalscorer in Europe?” he asked in an interview with Goal last season.

“I left Villa when I was 21. I still have time. I can get back to where I want to be if I do well.

“That’s still the aim. You want to do as best you can and get to where you want to be. Even with Shamrock Rovers, there’s so much ability that can make it.

“I know what it’s like, I’ve been in England, I see players that should be there. The margin is very slim. In football, you need a bit of luck. Luck is very important in football, and maybe I didn’t have that.”

At 24, Burke has yet to reach his peak.

His immediate task will be to maintain a consistent goal scoring rate, and to iron the indiscipline out of his game completely. The former Notts County player will take hope from players like Maguire, who used the League of Ireland as a launch pad after a disappointing spell in England.

There is a lot of optimism at Rovers at the minute, after the Hoops scored six in back to back home matches.

Rovers will be hoping to break the Dundalk/Cork monopoly of recent seasons, and Bradley’s side are currently fourth in the table, two points behind leaders Cork ahead of their trip to Turner’s Cross.

Five goals in three games is a good start for Burke, but he’s aiming a lot higher.

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