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Monday 11 December 2017

Irish side are bred for the battle: Long

ireland 1 poland 1

SHANE LONG believes that Ireland now have the brains and the brawn needed to find success on the road to France and secure Euro 2016 qualification.

The Tipperary man does not score many big goals for his country, as last night was only his second-ever competitive international goal, though Long's supporters (of which there are many) would point out that it's hard for a striker to score when he spends so much time on the bench.

It was a big goal from the Southampton man on a big night for Ireland, a night where defeat would have all but ended Irish hopes of automatic qualification but a point which keeps Ireland still in the hunt.

With a flurry of yellow cards from a fussy Swedish whistler this game was not one of the classics of European football but for Long, the crunching tackles and commitment from the home side was a sign that Martin O'Neill's side are up for the fight.

In the build-up to the game, the lack of atmosphere at Lansdowne Road was regretted and more than one fan hoped for something along the lines of Roy Keane's iconic, statement-making tackle on Marc Overmars early on in what would be Ireland's last important home win, the 2001 defeat of Holland. That set the tone for what was to come and for Long, the sight of Irish players standing up to a physically superior Polish side gladdens the heart.

"Every game in this league will be physical, Poland are a big side and they put themselves about, but we don't shy out of tackles. Wes - who is the smallest player on the pitch - put himself about, James McClean put in a massive tackle, we were born and bred that way and we're ready for any battle," said Long.

"Once againt we scored late on, it's against teams that are going to be right up there at the end of the campaign and not losing three points to them could be massive.

"So it keeps us within touching distance and maybe we can go out there to Poland and get a result.

"It's within our grasp and getting that draw last night was a big result for us, they could have gone a few points ahead of us and that would have big a big gap to claw back so it's in touching distance and we don't have to rely on other results, we're confident that we have a good enough squad here to get to the finals.

"Scotland at home in June is going to be a big game for us now. We have England in a friendly first, hopefully that'll be a chance for some of the players to stake their claim," added Long.

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