Tuesday 21 November 2017

Long loving the international spotlight

Shane Long celebrates scoring in last night's friendly against Uruguay. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile
Shane Long celebrates scoring in last night's friendly against Uruguay. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile

Shane Long's hunger to learn his trade has only been increased by his emergence as a genuine international footballer.

The Republic of Ireland striker scored his sixth goal in 19 senior appearances for his country in Tuesday night's 3-2 friendly defeat by World Cup semi-finalists Uruguay, and was also instrumental in winning the penalty which led to his side's second.

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni employed the 24-year-old frontman as a lone striker after being impressed by his performance as a replacement for the injured Kevin Doyle in Saturday's 2-1 Euro 2012 qualifying victory over Macedonia, and was again delighted with his efforts.

Long admits he has benefited from being a regular in the Reading starting line-up this season, and his 18 npower Championship goals to date are testament to his blossoming potency.

The former Cork City player is learning by the week, and his brush with Uruguay was an opportunity to test just how far he has come.

Long said: "They came fourth in the World Cup, so they are a very good side. One of the lads said nine of the players who started in the semi-final played again last night, so they are obviously a quality side.

"They had two good centre-backs, so it was a big learning curve for me.

"I am learning every day and 90 minutes every week is helping me progress. Last night is only going to add to that.

"They were good defenders. They knew what they were doing and could buy a foul as well, so it was a bit tough up there.

"But I gave as good as I got and I would like to think I caused them a bit of trouble."

For all that Long is making a genuine impact on the international scene, something that will not have gone unnoticed by a series of Barclays Premier League clubs as they plan their summer recruitment drives, he will not allow himself to be carried away.

Skipper Robbie Keane and Doyle were both missing last night as Trapattoni took a look at his fringe players, and with the Wolves striker starting the process of recovering from the medial ligament damage he suffered at the weekend - he is expected to be sidelined for between four and eight weeks - there could be more opportunities for the man who has established himself as third in line.

But even if Doyle is not fully fit by the time the Republic head for Skopje and their return clash with Macedonia on June 4, Long insists he cannot afford to take anything for granted.

He said: "There's Robbie, Kevin and myself going for that position, but there's also Leon Best and Jon Walters and Anthony Stokes and Andy Keogh...

"There is a long list of strikers trying to get in there, so every chance you get, you have got to try to take it, and I would like to think I did myself no harm."

It was Long who dragged Ireland back into the match against Uruguay when, with the South Americans leading through Diego Lugano's 12th-minute strike, he headed home a Liam Lawrence cross to level within three minutes.

But the Uruguayans were not to be denied, and cool finishes from Edinson Cavani and Abel Hernandez gave them a 3-1 advantage at the break.

However, Long flexed his muscles once again within three minutes of the restart, bursting free down the right before pulling the ball back towards the onrushing James McCarthy and Keogh, who were both felled by defender Martin Caceres.

Keith Fahey duly obliged from the spot, but a spirited fightback came up just short.

Long said: "There were a lot of new debuts out there and a lot of third and fourth caps, and it was a big performance from all of them, no one did themselves ay harm.

"We are just disappointed with the result. We played very good football and could have got two or three more.

"We can hold our heads high and learn from it - but we would have preferred a result as well."

Press Association

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