'He's come on leaps and bounds' - Martin O'Neill hints at Shane Duffy's inclusion in final 23
Published 28/05/2016 | 10:10
Martin O'Neill has backed striker Shane Long to make a major impact at Euro 2016 after firing the Republic of Ireland to within minutes of victory over Holland.
The 29-year-old, who enjoyed a fine finish to the domestic season with Southampton, struck after half an hour at the Aviva Stadium to claim his 16th senior international goal.
Long needed treatment after reopening a wound to his knee and was withdrawn with 23 minutes remaining, and although he may not feature against Belarus on Tuesday evening, O'Neill is confident he can star in France.
The manager said: "I don't see why not. He's playing with great confidence and he's ready to go.
"That little cut, which was in an awkward position on his knee, I think he reopened it again tonight and I didn't think there was any point in risking him any further, but he's going to be okay.
"I don't know whether he will participate in the game on Tuesday or not, but I think he has got the capability to make an impression."
There was a largely impressive display too from Blackburn defender Shane Duffy, who was solid at the back and a threat from attacking set-pieces, although he will have been disappointed with substitute Luuk de Jong's 85th-minute equaliser as the frontman was allowed to meet Jetro Willems' cross unopposed.
Asked if he would have any qualms about naming Duffy in his final 23, O'Neill said: "Oh, I wouldn't be afraid. I thought he did very, very well in March in the Swiss match and again (he put in) another excellent performance.
"Considering he hasn't got any fantastic international experience, he has come on in leaps and bounds from the time that we took him to America, when he was on loan at Yeovil at the time from Everton.
"He has gone then to Blackburn and obviously playing most weeks has been beneficial to him and he's taken to it. I thought he did very well."
O'Neill's players were due to warm down on Saturday morning before being given the remainder of the weekend off ahead of next week's training camp in Cork, during which time they will face Belarus at Turner's Cross.