BURNLEY defender Kevin Long is determined to show his worth in the green shirt against Armenia's U21 side if given the chance tonight after spending the past three months tied up in red tape.
Long thought he had sealed a dream move when he left Cork City for Burnley at the end of the 2009 League of Ireland season.
But the move turned into a nightmare for the player as he has been unable to play even reserve games, let alone force his way into the first team at Turf Moor, as the paperwork relating to the deal was held up due to the continuing financial crisis at Turner's Cross. A row over who was to get the €100,000 cash from Long's transfer became a matter for the courts but it has all been resolved now and the defender is officially a Burnley FC player.
He starts tonight's U21 qualifier against Armenia in Tallaght Stadium, a basement battle as Ireland need a win to move off the bottom of the table, on the bench but is hoping to play a role.
"I haven't played a game since November so that's been tough, all I want to do is get back into it, and it would be great to play in Tallaght tonight if I get the chance. My registration has gone through now so hopefully I can get some games in with Burnley," Long told the Herald.
Tonight is a big occasion for Long, and not just because he's making a return to Tallaght. "I'd love to play tonight, I enjoyed it the last time I played at Tallaght Stadium. I was with Cork City and we beat Shamrock Rovers 2-1, so I'd love to get another game and another win tonight," he said.
"Hopefully I will get my debut against Armenia at some stage. I have been in the squad before but never got capped. I was never capped at all. I think I was a late developer in soccer as I was never in any of the Ireland squads growing up, for whatever reason that is.
"When I broke into the Cork City first team people started to take notice and I got my chance from there. I was under the radar for a long time, I played my schoolboy football for Kilrea Celtic and Everton in Cork for a bit before I went to Cork City youths.
"I enjoyed my time at Cork, though there was a bit of chaos at times, and things are much better organised now at Burnley. It is sad to see Cork City go, but hopefully they can survive and get back up into the Premier."
U21 boss Don Givens, eager for his side to move off the bottom of the table in their qualifying group for the 2011 European Championships, has a stronger squad to pick from tonight compared to the last outing against the Armenians as Seamus Coleman and Owen Garvan are available again.
"We had drawn the previous four games, matches that we created enough chances to have won, but against Armenia we were awful. It was just a really poor performance in Armenia in every part," Givens said.
"Hopefully we can address that tonight. Our captain Owen Garvan is back in the squad after missing the last match through suspension and, if we can start putting away the chances, we'll do okay."
IRELAND U21: Shane Redmond (Darlington); Seamus Coleman (Everton), Callum Morris (Newcastle), Darren Dennehy (Gillingham), Cian Hughton (Lincoln); David Meyler (Sunderland), Conor Clifford (Chelsea), Owen Garvan (Ipswich, cap); Alan Judge (Plymouth), Cillian Sheridan (St Johnstone), Sean Scannell (Palace).