Peter Burke

Keeper's play-off preview

by Ashley Houghton

U18 stopper Burke on Fulham test.

Sunderland goalkeeper Peter Burke says he hopes to relive his memorable performance for Ireland in the UEFA U17 European Championships as Sunderland travel to Fulham in the semi-finals of the Barclays U18 Premier League.

Burke saved a 90th-minute penalty to earn his country three points in their opening qualifying game against Austria in March.

And the Donegal-born stopper is certainly hoping for a repeat of that feeling in Wednesday’s clash with the Cottagers.

“It’s difficult [when asked whether he would swap his penalty stop for a place in the final] because you never get a moment like saving a penalty for your country,” Burke said.

“Obviously you want to play football to win games, get in finals, win silverware, and be the best you can be so I’m not sure [about swapping], but I’d like but to relive that feeling again.”

Burke, who has played 13 times for the under-18s this campaign, is likely to face a Fulham side who have scored more goals than any other U18 team this season – bagging 74 goals in just 26 games.

However, Burke feels a Sunderland defence that has kept four clean sheets in its previous six outings is capable of shutting out Fulham’s dangerous attack.

“We’ve done well in the second part of the season,” he added.

“Our defence has tightened up and we’ve all worked well as a unit – we’ve all stuck in and grafted hard for results.

“We’ve got a couple of clean sheets as well so we’re going into the game confident that we’re not going to concede and that we’ll be able to deal with what they throw at us.”

The Republic of Ireland stopper, who has been capped seven times at U17 level, says the squad harmony at Sunderland has been a big factor in the young Black Cats’ performances since the turn of the year.

Having come over from Ireland in the summer, Burke told he has felt more at home than ever in recent weeks.

“In the second half of the season all the lads have bonded and we’ve got to know each other a lot more as well - obviously that shows in our performances,” Burke explained.

“It’s great when we get a result; we have the tunes on, people dancing round the dressing room and we’ve a party atmosphere.

“Then it’s back to work the next day so it’s just a great way to be – it feels homely now and it’s great to be around the lads when they’re all buzzing and getting on well.”