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Long is happy with his first goal


Jack Byrne

Jack Byrne

Jack Byrne

Kevin Long saluted Ireland's second-half showing as they blew Bulgaria away with a 3-1 win that continued the momentum for Mick McCarthy's side.

After the 1-1 draw against Switzerland in last Thursday's Euro 2020 qualifier, a much-changed side took advantage of the chance to shine on the international stage, as Alan Browne, Long and James Collins scored in an encouraging second-half display.

"To play for my country was a magnificent feeling and to back it up with a goal and a win is brilliant," said Burnley defender Long.

"First half we kept the ball well, but we didn't move it quick enough. Second half, we upped the tempo, played a lot more forward balls and I think we dictated the game."

A team featuring a clutch of second-string players sent out a few messages to the Ireland management team ahead of the decisive Euro 2020 qualifiers in the next couple of months, with Long pleased to represent a strong contingent of Cork-born players in the line-up.

"There were four Cork lads in the team tonight. It was brilliant. For all the lads playing tonight, it was brilliant," he added.

"I have not been playing too much for Burnley so to get a goal for your country is brilliant."

While Jack Byrne and Josh Cullen were among those who caught the eye against Bulgaria, former Ireland defender John O'Shea suspects manager McCarthy is likely to stand by his first-choice starters for next month's crucial Euro 2020 qualifiers against Georgia and Switzerland.

"This result sets Ireland up nicely for the next couple of games, but it's unlikely the team will change after this game for the next qualifier in Georgia," O'Shea told Sky Sports.

"A couple of players have done themselves no harm, but the starting team for the qualifiers has been picking itself of late and I expect that to continue."