Shane Long opens up on ‘embarrassing and degrading’ dressing-room moment under Stephen Kenny

Shane Long and Stephen Kenny

Aidan Fitzmaurice

SHANE Long says he knew the “writing was on the wall” for his Ireland career early in the reign of Stephen Kenny as manager, and the veteran striker has claimed that an incident where he lost his squad number to newcomer Adam Idah was “embarrassing and degrading”.

Long won the last of his 88 caps against Qatar in June 2021 and has not featured in a squad under Kenny since the World Cup qualifier against Portugal, a game he missed after testing positive for Covid-19, though Kenny said as recently as May of last year that Long was still in contention.

Speaking to the ‘Kay And Ash, Share Your Voice’ Podcast, a venture involving Long’s wife Kayleigh, the Tipperary native was asked to reflect on the lows in his career and while he mentioned defeats at club level, losing a playoff at Wembley and a Carling Cup final defeat, he spoke of “one that stands out” in relation to his Ireland career as the former Reading and West Brom man was upset at losing possession of the No. 9 squad number.

"It was late in my Ireland career. So obviously when you come into the ranks you get a high number in the Ireland squad. I remember Kevin Doyle was No. 9, Richie Dunne was No. 5, Robbie Keane was No. 9. Going back over the years it was Gary Kelly No. 2, Ian Harte No. 3. You kind of earned your number in the squad,” Long told the podcast.

“Once Kevin [Doyle] had left international football and gone to America, I was given the number nine shirt. I was so proud to have that number, and I had it for years.

"Stephen Kenny called me into the squad. He called me, Seamus Coleman and Darren Randolph, he wanted to start a new tradition of welcoming new players, give them their first Ireland jersey. I had a little speech saying how proud I was to make my first appearance, just introducing them to the team, which I thought was a great idea.

"So Seamus Coleman steps up, I think he had Dara O'Shea and gives him the No. 23 jersey. Randolph stepped up, I think it was Caoimhin Kelleher he gave the jersey to, another high number. And then I stepped up and it was Adam Idah, and I was delighted because obviously he's Cork city, he's a bit of a culchie like myself, a young guy, big potential.

"So I gave a speech and I held up the shirt, and on the back it was number 9. I remember just handing that jersey over and I just wanted to storm out of that room. And if it was at club level I would have left, that would have been me gone. I didn’t want to take away from Adam.

"That was a manager making a statement. I rang Kayleigh, she’s my sounding board and she was raging as well. Adam hadn't made an appearance for Ireland, he hadn't earned the shirt.”

Long insists that the hierarchy of squad numbers had been in place for some time and was valued by the players. “When Robbie Keane retired, Robbie Brady was in the squad for a long, long time, he was desperate for No. 10, so then he got the No. 10 and wore that to the Euros. It was just the traditional way, you had to earn that number in the squad, to have it taken away and handed over like that was embarrassing and degrading,” Long said.

"I spent so many years trying to earn that number. That was one of the lowest. I didn’t want to take away from Adam, it was a big moment for him. I went straight to the kit man and asked him who picks the numbers, and he said the gaffer. So I knew then that the writing was on the wall."

Asked why he continued to play under Kenny after the shirt incident – he won seven caps under the current Ireland boss – Long said he did not want to walk away. “When it’s Ireland and it’s your country you don’t want one man to ruin that for you. I wanted to get every cap I could for my country and enjoy every minute on that pitch, that one was a tough one to swallow,” Long said.