Thursday 22 February 2018

Long determined to become Ireland's premier goal threat after too many years on fringes

Shane Long speaks to journalists during the mixed zone
Shane Long speaks to journalists during the mixed zone
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

SHANE Long has a burning desire to replace Robbie Keane as Ireland's first-choice striker.

The 27-year-old former hurler from Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary, has served a seven-year stint in the green jersey, but he feels that too many of his 43 caps have been awarded for substitute appearances.

Now Long hopes that a combination of his €7m move to Hull City from West Brom and the Martin O'Neill/Roy Keane regime can boost his international career to a new level.

"I've got 10 goals for my country, and a lot of my appearances were for five or 10 minutes at the end of games for six or seven years," Long said. "Only in the last year and a half have I begun to start regularly and get a run of games.

"I didn't score as many in those games as I'd have liked, but I think I did enough to warrant my place in the starting team."

If effort and commitment were all that counted for a starting spot, Long would have many more caps and goals by now.

He's a player's player, and is happy to shoulder the burden of working unselfishly across the line and tracking back where necessary.

That kind of commitment isn't always reflected in the media player ratings, something which he has learned to accept.

"I like to put myself about, and put it in for the team. Maybe I don't get the praise for doing that side of things, the hard work.

"As long a team wins, I'm happy. I'm sure managers appreciate that. Hopefully, I can add more goals. I've started well at Hull. I hope it can continue," he said.

The week so far has been a mixture of bad, mad and glad for Long – and there's still the Serbia match to come.

The 'bad' was Hull City's 4-1 home defeat to Newcastle United on Saturday.

The 'mad' was Magpies boss Alan Pardew head-butting Irish midfielder David Meyler, and the 'glad' was Long's goal against England at Wembley last May being named as Goal of the Year at the annual FAI International Awards on Sunday night.

That header against the English will remain an enduring career highlight for Long.

"Yeah, definitely, the occasion that was in it – England at Wembley.

"As a kid I suppose it's what you dream about doing, scoring against England. I was lucky enough to do it," he said.

Pardew's reckless actions in the sideline clash with Meyler were the opposite end of the scale of career memories, but Long didn't join the chorus of criticism.

"It was a shame because it was a good game up to that," he said. "Even though we were 3-1 down, we were still in it.

"Newcastle put in a great performance, won 4-1, and that incident kind of overshadows the whole game.

"At the time, I just couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was just a moment of madness and I'm sure it was totally out of character and hopefully it won't be blown up too much."

Hull fans and manager Steve Bruce have been delighted with the impact made by Long and fellow newcomer Nikica Jelavic – formerly of Everton, Glasgow Rangers and Rapid Vienna – a partnership that just gelled as soon as the two players teamed up together.

"I remember after the first game people were saying we seemed to really click," said Long.

"In training we didn't play in the same team once – it was young v old and he's obviously a little bit older than me – but it just kind of clicked on the pitch.

"We didn't really have to work it. I'm enjoying playing up front with him. He's a handful, he's a big lad, but he works his socks off as well."

Unfortunately for Hull, their record signings – who cost an estimated €14m in total are cup-tied and will miss Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final against John O'Shea's Sunderland.

"I'd love to see the team get to Wembley for the final, but it would be horrible to watch from the stand," said Long.

Irish Independent

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