Keane insists Long hitting career peak at the perfect moment
Roy Keane believes that Shane Long is running on high octane confidence at the moment and is hitting his career peak at last.
Long's entry into the Belrus game late on caused a major change in attitude and effort all around him and he is clearly bursting with self-belief now.
"He's 29 now, he's a good age and seems to be peaking," said Keane.
"I think the goals he has got for Ireland in the last few years and in the last few months have no doubt given him that confidence boost.
"He's getting games under his belt at Southampton. Going over his club career he was not always a regular even going back to his West Brom days.
"I'm sure if you spoke to Shane the first thing he would say is that he is feeling very, very confident. And most strikers I speak to say that confidence is a massive part of it," added Keane who sees clear evidence of Long's mental strength in his body language.
"You can, even last night when he was coming on. When you saw him coming on you feel pretty sure that had he started with that much confidence that we probably might have won the game.
"Obviously with Robbie coming towards an end, Shane maybe sees it as he wants to be the main man. The signs are that I think he can be."
Keane believes that Long's direct brand of attacking play is coming back into fashion and that he can play different roles for Ireland.
"He can play in a couple of different roles. he can play in two up front, can do a good job on his own. I think in the modern game over the last five or six years, it has been obsessed with possession," he said.
"With Shane and the way he plays , it seems to be coming back into it where teams are a bit more direct and stretching teams. And Shane does that.
"He's getting the plaudits and is a regular at Southampton. I have seen him once or twice in the last few months - at Everton - and he is a handful. If you are a centre half you'd think 'oh, it's okay when people play in front of you' but now the game is being stretched.
"He's in good form and confidence is the word that I would use about Shane at the moment and he's probably playing for a new contract!" laughed the Ireland No. 2.
O'Neill's striking options are painfully limited, especially after Daryl Murphy's poor showing in Cork, a game tailor-made for him to break his international duck but one in which he struggled badly.
"Murph has got to do something about it. Having said that, he was not getting great service, in his defence, particularly in the first half. He was getting passes and you were thinking 'would you like that type of pass - in around your neck with three fellows around you?'" he said.
Keane reckons Murphy could do with a chat with a man who took a long time to score his first international goal - John Aldridge. "Murph has got to make something happen. He has got to knock people over, make something happen. Maybe he should speak to Aldo - he is a good striker to talk to," he said.
"To cut to the chase, he could do with a goal. Even the chance he had win the second half last night, we were all hoping and praying that he knocks it in.
"But then we appreciate all the other stuff that Murph does. He has played a big part in the other games for us."