Shane Long hoping Republic of Ireland can cause another Euro 2016 upset
Published 24/06/2016 | 15:51
Shane Long is hoping the Republic of Ireland can write a new chapter in the nation's footballing history against France on Sunday after already earning their place in Irish folklore.
Long and most of his team-mates were just boys when Ireland exploded on to the world stage at Italia 1990 and in the United States four years later, but they ensured their own feats too will be remembered by beating Italy on Wednesday night to secure their passage to the last 16 at Euro 2016.
However not content with that, they are now planning to repeat the dose by dumping the hosts out of the competition in Lyon and securing a quarter-final berth.
Southampton striker Long said: "I don't think anyone expected us to get out of the group. To do it that way is up there with some of the best moments in Irish football history.
"But we can really make it special now. It's not going to be easy - we're playing one of the favourites, the host nation and in front of lots of French fans. It's going to be a hard job, but we fancy ourselves to cause an upset.
"We're going to leave it all out on the pitch and hopefully get that bit of luck to help us over the line."
The odds are stacked against Ireland - France are unbeaten in the competition to date and boast a squad rich in talent, and they have had three days more than their next opponents to recover from their exertions to date.
In addition, the Republic have only been allocated around 4,500 tickets for the game at the Stade de Lyon after their fans vastly out-numbered Italy's in Lille in midweek.
But 29-year-old Long, who sat alongside fellow striker Daryl Murphy as they spoke to the media in Versailles on Friday afternoon, promised they would be ready to do battle all over again.
He said: "Myself and Murph know what it's like in the [Sky Bet] Championship. You play Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday. We're well used to that sort of routine.
"I feel good personally and all the lads are the same. We have all the recovery here that we need. We have the cryotherapy, which is -150 degrees for five minutes. Everything that we need is here for us to recover in the best possible way.
"We'll be ready come Sunday."
The game will be the first meeting between the sides since Thierry Henry's illegal contribution to a World Cup play-off victory for France in November 2009, and the French media in particular has made much of an opportunity to gain revenge.
However, both assistant manager Roy Keane and skipper Robbie Keane have played down that aspect, and Long agrees.
Told that former Auxerre boss Guy Roux has suggested the Ireland players watch that game again for inspiration, he said: "That's seven years ago, that's forgotten about now.
"We were devastated at the time because it cost us a place in the finals. We don't even think about that. Our focus is just on this game.
"We're playing a very good French team on French soil. It's going to be hard, but we're going to be right up for that challenge and maybe we can cause a bit of an upset.
"When it comes to that Henry handball, it's not even in our minds."