Monday 16 September 2019

'It’s a confidence booster to be picked ahead of Shane' - Collins hoping to make the most of Long omission

James Collins and assistant coach Terry Connor during a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
James Collins and assistant coach Terry Connor during a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

John Fallon

Ireland striker James Collins admits he’s taken confidence from being preferred by Mick McCarthy over Shane Long as his debut looms.

The Luton Town attacker was tipped for a stellar Ireland career when he notched a hat-trick on his Under-21 debut but there’s plenty of upheaval during the intervening eight years to delay his senior bow.

Having dropped down from Aston Villa to Shrewsbury Town, further spells in the lower leagues and a disappointing brief stint in Scotland under Pat Fenlon at Hibernian cast doubts on his comeback ambitions.

Luton Town, however, proved a haven and successive promotions has propelled him into the Championship and McCarthy’s plans. He's grabbed three goals this season, the first coming on the opening night to deny Robbie Keane a win on his first game as Middlesbrough assistant manager.

With the goal-scoring hero of Thursday’s 1-1 Euro qualifier draw against Switzerland, David McGoldrick, ruled out of Tuesday’s friendly against Bulgaria, Ireland need a targetman.

The additional withdrawal of Callum Robinson heightens the likelihood of the 28-year-old getting a start alongside the only other striker left in the panel, Scott Hogan.

Long’s axing from the original squad by McCarthy, on the basis lack of gametime at Southampton, has been a talking point during this gathering.

Collins isn’t willing to become part of the crossfire, albeit he considers it beneficial not to be competing for a place on Tuesday against a Premier League striker.

"It’s a confidence booster to be picked ahead of Shane," said the 28-year-old today at FAI HQ before the squad reassembled following a couple of days off.

"Shane has done far more than me in his club and Ireland career.

"Mick didn’t bring me in if he didn’t think about giving me the chance of being involved.

"With the game being a friendly, it’s a massive opportunity for players who’ve not got minutes to play. We still want to win the game.

"It’s down to me to impress the gaffer if I get my debut."

A striker in form such as Collins should relish facing Bulgaria after their defensive calamities Saturday’s 4-0 Euro qualification defeat to England. The Coventry-born forward wasn’t giving it much heed, contending he’d only watched the highlights last night.

Richard Keogh will be the last player joining the squad this evening ahead of the friendly. McCarthy has no plans to bolster his panel with additions, happy to allow Stephen Kenny keep all of his young guns such as Troy Parrott for the Euro Under-21 qualifier in Sweden on the same day.

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