Roy Keane urges fellow Corkmen Kevin Long and Alan Browne to seize their chance to impress
ROY Keane has challenged Cork lads Kevin Long and Alan Browne to make the most of an opportunity to impress Ireland's management team in an international gathering that started in their own back yard.
Burnley defender Long and Preston midfielder Browne - both of whom are ex-Cork City players - have just finished their first three days with an Ireland senior squad after a short training camp in Fota Island.
The main purpose of the exercise has been to work on the fitness levels of Championship performers that have been out of season since May 7. They will form the bulk of the squad that travels to New York for next Thursday's friendly with Mexico.
But Martin O'Neill also opted to introduce some new faces with Long drafted in after playing the final three games of Burnley's Premier League campaign. Browne was also recognised after a couple of seasons in the first team squad at Preston, while teenager Declan Rice was summoned to complete a dream week following his West Ham debut on Sunday.
Assistant manager Keane went to watch Long in the flesh for his club and was impressed by the 26-year-old centre half who has recovered from a long term injury to patiently wait for his chance in the background at Burnley.
"I know one or two of the staff members there and they speak highly of him," says Keane, "Burnley turned down plenty of offers for him to go out on loan in the Championship and he’s got his chance in the Premier League recently and done well.
"I’ve seen him a couple of times. He’s a good strong boy. Obviously, he‘s not a kid and I’m sure if he gets a chance against Mexico, he'll take it. And that’s what happens in football sometimes. Sometimes fellas come into the squad at 18-19 years of age whether it’s a Robbie Keane or a Brady and then other lads come in a bit later in their career and that’s fine also.
"As I’ve said, we don’t have the biggest pool of players so if lads are playing, particularly at Premier League level, then obviously they are going to be considered of course.
"Obviously Alan Browne has played international football at underage, he’s played regularly at Championship level and obviously a good percentage of our players are Championship players. Like any player who has been training the last few days, he should take a look at our squad and say ‘okay, I like to to think I’ve got a chance’.
"The thing that’s been impressive with the few lads this week is that they’ve had a really good attitude to their training, nice mindset. Usually, there would be a bit more noise, or banter but because there are few lads trying to bed in it’s been quiet, but a nice quiet, the lads have just got on with their training and they’ve impressed all the staff."
Rice was surprised by his call and Keane admits that the management team are still learning about the 18-year-old.
"We’ve not seen too much of him. He’s not played much football. I know he got on for the last few minutes against Burnley, I was at the game. It was nice to see close up and it’s nice to see these lads around the hotel," he continued.
"We can talk about the football sides of thing but it’s nice to get to know their personalities a little bit. He seems to have enjoyed it. He’s a nice kid and we’ll see what he’s like over the coming weeks. Again, there are different challenges for these players."
James McClean will join the Irish travelling party for America along with goalkeepers Darren Randolph and Colin Doyle; Cork City's netminders Mark McNulty and Alan Smith filled in for a training game yesterday as Randolph and Doyle are on a break after the end of their club season.
The rest of Ireland's Premier League performers are expected to report in for the June 4 friendly with Uruguay and then minds will focus on the huge World Cup qualifier with Austria on June 11.