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Saturday 25 November 2017

Long game pays off for Clarets' Cork boy Kevin

Kevin Long. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Kevin Long. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

There's no end-of-season fatigue for defender Kevin Long as he plans to make his mark on the international stage this week.

The 26-year-old is one of just two uncapped players in Martin O'Neill's travelling party for Thursday's friendly against Mexico in New Jersey.

All seven defenders in the squad are itching to play but while the likes of Alex Pearce and Richard Keogh come into the Ireland camp after a physically testing season, Long is fresh, having only broken into the Burnley side in the last month, making three appearances.

This Ireland trip today means he will miss his brother Daniel's wedding but Long was only too happy to make the trip, the call coming at the right time.

"It has been a little bit of a shock, I haven't been playing a lot of games of late so to finish off the season, get a few games in the Premier League and get a call up for your country, it's massive," said Long.

"I'm absolutely delighted; my family are delighted, my friends are delighted for me. It's brilliant.

"I felt ready," he says of that call from Sean Dyche to play in the final games of the season. "I felt I've kept in good shape all season. I've been training hard and waiting for opportunities but the two lads ahead of me have been doing really well so I've just had to be patient and when a chance came along I felt ready, I just felt excited to play."

Long will be 26 should he, as expected, make his senior debut this week against Mexico so he's had to be patient in his career, even though a lot happened very early on for the defender.

"I just broke into the Cork City team and, literally within a few months, I was over in England and had signed for a Premier League club so everything just happened so fast. It was brilliant," says Long.

"Playing for Cork City at the time, it was my local club, I'd grown up watching them when I was a kid so it was brilliant.

"When I first came to England seven years ago, I was only after playing 15 games for Cork City so everything was relatively new to me.

"Coming into the Premier League team at the time, coming in and basically training full time for the first time so I had to go out on loan for the first two and three years to get used to things over there and settle in."

Long will hope to stay on with the squad and play a part in the home games against Uruguay and Austria, and also remain on terms with his family for missing that wedding.

"My brother (Daniel) was happy that I got called up for my country. He's got an amateur cap and he's always held that against me so if I get a cap for the proper team I think I can shove that on him. I don't mind missing it, I don't think he'll mind either," he laughed.

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