herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

Long: Every Irish player has a point to prove this week

On-song Shane aims to carry on club form

Republic of Ireland's Shane Long during squad training. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland's Shane Long during squad training. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

After nine years of service, just one appearance shy of the 60-cap mark, Shane Long should not really have a point to prove to anyone.

But for all his service and his heroics, like his winning goal which stunned Germany into silence, you get the feeling that international managers have always seen Long with a question mark above his head.

Two sub appearances in Euro 2012 was Long's unappetising experience at Euro 2012 under Giovanni Trapattoni, while he managed just two starts in the entire qualifying campaign for Euro 2016.

The current Ireland boss seems to prefer the physical presence of a Daryl Murphy or Jon Walters in the starting line-up to cut a path for Long to follow as a sub.

It's strange for Long to talk about being patient, seeing as he made his Ireland debut back in 2007, but he seems willing to accept his lot, take the chances as they come while all the while trying to show that he deserves more.

Scored

"When you have Robbie Keane there, who has scored 60-odd international goals, the manager wants those goals brought into his team," Long admits, when asked about his lack of starts in that decade-long career with the senior team.

"Jonny Walters is flying, Daryl Murphy is flying in the Championship, there are a lot of options for the manager.

"It depends on who who we are playing, he might want to stick the big lads up front, hold the ball up. I feel like I have proved myself when I have come on. Everyone has to prove themselves.

"At the time I wasn't playing week in week out at club level so I felt like I had done well when I had played with Ireland but the gaffer had a different idea of how he wanted to play the game and I had to be patient and wait for my chance to come, I feel like I have done well in the games and hopefully I am an option he likes," added Long.

Euro 2012 was not a good time for Long, who didn't start any of the three games and was introduced off the bench for the last 15 minutes of the game against Croatia (when Ireland were already 3-1 down) and for the final 25 minutes of the defeat to Italy.

"I only got 10-15 minutes in the last campaign, it was disappointing for me to look back on that and not have more of an impact on how we got on, hopefully I do well at club level and come into this on a streak and the gaffer will have a headache over whether to start me or not.

"Hopefully I have done enough over the campaign to show that I will be a big part of the tournament over there," says Long, his stock high with Ireland fans, at least, on the back of that goal against Germany where he wanted to make an impression off the bench.

"I knew their left centre-back was a bit slower than the right, the left full-back as well, they were playing a bit high up the pitch as they were obviously trying to get the win, there was a lot of space in behind," Long recalls.

"When I came on I tried to get my head into the game, try and test them in behind. There were a few chances where they just didn't come through but it was a great ball from Darren Randolph. You have to keep focused, obviously I was frustrated on the bench at not playing but so are 10 other lads as well so you have to get your mind focused."

His form is good at club level heading into the international games. "I got an injury around Christmas time but ever since then I have been in the starting XI and playing 90 minutes most weeks, as a striker it's massive to have that confidence that you are going to play every week, once you get the cobwebs out of your system you fly in games and I am really enjoying my football at the moment," says Long, likely to feature tonight with Robbie Keane and Walters missing due to injury.

"I want to play every minute. I know the gaffer will want to see players playing and rightly so, any cap I can get for my country is always a very proud moment for me so I want to play both games," he says.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News