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Saturday 3 December 2016

President salutes Shane Long as fans' hopes are high in Warsaw

Shane Long celebrates after the match
Shane Long celebrates after the match
President Michael D Higgins
Avid supporters Joe McKenna, Charlie Rogan, Tony Franklin, Niall Hayden, Liam Owen, Alan O'Shaughnessy, Jimmy O'Hara and Frank Scott in Warsaw
Shane Long and his wife, Kayleah, who took to Instagram on Thursday night after he scored the dramatic winner against Germany

Ireland's top football fan, President Michael D Higgins, has lavished praise on "wonderful" Shane Long, whose stunning goal on Thursday night has put the Boys in Green within touching distance of an automatic qualifying spot for Euro 2016.

Mr Higgins, who was at the historic win over Germany at the Aviva Stadium, got the opportunity to congratulate the super-sub striker's mum over the airwaves.

"How proud you must be of your wonderful son," he told Ann Long. "He's a great boy and you should be so proud."

Impressed

Mr Higgins, whose long history as a football fan includes a stint as president of Galway United, was speaking to Mrs Long and the striker's sister Elaine on Ray D'Arcy's Radio One show.

He had praise for the whole team, and also singled out goalkeeper Darren Randolph and man of the match Wes Hoolahan as players who had particularly impressed him on the night.

Southampton star Long's family got behind him for the performance of his career, with his wife Kayleah travelling to Dublin for the game.

The couple have two children, Erin (1) and Teigan (5).

Kayleah took to Instagram to describe her excitement at Ireland's sensational victory, saying she was "buzzing", from the stands of the Aviva when her man bagged the winning goal.

Long's mum said his jubilant post-match interview left her in tears, adding that he showed "what it meant to play for Ireland".

Elaine said that she was looking forward to tomorrow's game against Poland.

Meanwhile, a legion of Irish fans are set to descend on Warsaw over the next 24 hours, with some already soaking up the atmosphere in the Polish capital.

A group of more than 40 supporters from St Ita's supporters' club in Donabate travelled to Poland yesterday morning and have been enjoying the build-up to the game. One of them, Joe McKenna, was at Thursday's "electrifying" dispatch of the Germans.

"It was the best game since the Aviva opened," he said.

"The flight was full of Irish supporters. A lot of people were tired and catching up on sleep after the match. We're enjoying our first pint and the day is young."

Club chairman Tony Franklin said there was a steady stream of supporters arriving ahead of the match.

"Last June we were dead and buried, but now we have something to play for on Sunday," he said. "I saw youngsters crying with passion at the game on Thursday. It was an unbelievable moment."

Charlie Rogan, from Swords, said there was excitement in the air in Warsaw.

"There is a very positive vibe around the city that we can win the match," he said.

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