Wednesday 20 June 2018

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'It's frustrating' - Shane Long remains positive despite struggle to find goals

Shane Long: will be hopingto get back among the goals tonight. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters
Shane Long: will be hopingto get back among the goals tonight. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Shane Long wasn't about to shirk the issue at hand but by the same token he wasn't letting it get on top of him.

Prior to kick off last Friday, Moldova were perceived as ideal opponents to end his lengthy wait for an international goal and one would have expected Long to finish at least one of the three presentable chances that fell his way but this is a striker whose confidence has palpably taken a major hit.

Today marks one year to the day that the 30-year-old last found the back of the net for Ireland. It's been a difficult 12 months in green.

"It was a great win but, obviously, personally it was frustrating," Long said after the 2-0 win on Friday.

"I didn't do all that much wrong, it just didn't go for me. I feel over the last three games with Southampton I didn't really have many chances and today I got three but they just wouldn't go in for me.

"The first one just went past the post; I couldn't connect any better, the second one was a save and the third one I don't know how it went past the post. You know, sometimes this happens but I'll keep getting in the right positions. Thankfully it didn't cost us tonight.

"I think if you ask any striker and they go through this stage, it just won't go in for them, but hopefully the ball will come and hit me in the face and into the goal and it'll kick on from there.

"I feel like I'm playing well and doing everything right - just hitting the back of the net is the next step and hopefully I can kick on."

Long certainly benefited from playing alongside Daryl Murphy but Martin O'Neill is expected to revert to his tried and tested formula in Cardiff this evening, with the Tipperary native up top on his own.

It's largely been a thankless task in this qualifying campaign but there is no getting away from the fact that a return of one goal is not enough from Ireland's main striker.

"I felt like I got hold of the ball and caused them a lot of problems," Long continued.

"If you look back you'll see the chances that I missed and people think it's a bad game but I know myself how I performed. It is frustrating not to get a goal, but it'll come. You've just got to keep believing. Sometimes when it's like tonight you kind of have to laugh it off and move on to the next one.

"I remember when I was at Reading when I had 25 goals in a season I went from one in 13 (games) or something.

"You've got to keep going and going and suddenly it'll come and they'll fly into the net. In training I'm hitting the net no problem, it's just not happening in the game."

Sean Maguire replaced Long in the latter stages as the Preston striker made his long-awaited debut and behind the scenes, the seasoned campaigner has been helping the young pretender.

"I'm delighted for him," Long added.

"He's obviously come from the League of Ireland and over to England and he's fine over there. Obviously being a Kilkenny man there's a bit of rivalry there but I'm delighted for him.

"He's really worked hard to get to where he is. He is still young and the future looks bright for him. When he came on he deserved his chance and getting that debut under his belt is obviously a big honour for him so I wanted to make him as comfortable as he could be."

Maguire looked lively when he came on and having had his appetite for the international game whetted, he is hungry for more.

"When the crowd are singing your name, it's hard to put it into words what it actually means to me," Maguire said.

"The last time I was here, I was scoring a winner for Cork City. I could never have imagined that a year later I would be back making my international debut. Hopefully it's the start of many caps."

Irish Independent

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