Long gunning for bigger role as he battles Murphy for starting slot
Published 25/03/2016 | 02:30
Shane Long wants to use the friendlies with Switzerland and Slovakia to prove to Martin O'Neill that he is worthy of full involvement in Euro 2016.
The hero of the famous win over Germany last October was restricted to an impact sub role for the majority of the qualification campaign but has arrived this week in good heart after a good run in the side at Southampton.
Long has bad memories of watching the majority of Euro 2012 from the bench and the 29-year-old is anxious to make up for the lost opportunity.
With Robbie Keane and Jon Walters missing tonight's game with Switzerland through injury, Long should get a chance to make an impression although Kevin Doyle and Daryl Murphy are also vying for game-time.
The pairing of Long with his old Reading team-mate Doyle is a possibility.
"I want to play every minute," says Long. "It was disappointing for me to look back on that (Euro 2012) and not have more an impact on how we got on.
"Hopefully I have done enough over the campaign to show that I will be a big part of the tournament over there.
"When you have Robbie Keane there, who has scored 60-odd international goals, the manager wants those goals brought into his team. Jonny Walters is flying, Daryl Murphy is flying in the Championship, there are a lot of options for the manager.
"It depends on how we are playing - he might want to stick the big lads up front and hold the ball up. But I feel I've proved myself when I have come on. Everyone has to prove themselves. At the time (of Germany game) I wasn't playing week in, week out at club level.
"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."
O'Neill is mulling over how to spread his large squad across the two Dublin games. Brentford winger Alan Judge is in line for a competitive debut, while Blackburn centre-half Shane Duffy will start one of the two matches. Cardiff's Anthony Pilkington is unavailable for tonight but hopes to be available for Tuesday along with Keane and Walters.
Darren Randolph is expected to start between the sticks with Rob Elliot taking over for Slovakia.