CORK’S own Kevin Long is the star attraction for Burnley at Turner’s Cross tonight.
The powerhouse defender features for the Premier League side when they take on Cork City in a preseason friendly, 7pm.
These are very exciting times for Burnley, who have a host of Irish players including Robbie Brady, Stephen Ward, Jeff Hendrick and Jonathan Walters, as they are about to embark on their first European campaign for 51 years.
First up is a clash against Aberdeen in the second qualifying round of the Europa League.
“The fans are absolutely delighted,” said Leesider Long, who started his career with City before moving to England. They are dreaming and want to go on a European tour.
“So it is brilliant for the fans. But it is also brilliant for the players. We want to be playing at a high level of football and they don’t get much higher than the Europa League.
“If we can get into the Europa League (group stages), it is going to be fantastic and it is what we want to be playing in.”
On top of making an impact at club level, Long is keen to try and stake a place as a regular at international level, in the heart of the Republic Of Ireland defence.
“Playing for your country it is a fantastic feeling. There is no better feeling than winning for your country as well.
“There has been a lot of changes with the Ireland squad over the last year or so. We want to create a winning mentality and we want to go and achieve things for our country, there is no greater feeling.
“So when we meet up again in September we want to go and win some games. Win these UEFA Nations League games and hopefully get on a good run and then qualify for Euro 2020.”
More players for the national side have commenced their first team playing days in the League Of Ireland.
Long feels that there are plenty of benefits for young footballers who get the chance to line out at first team League Of Ireland level.
“Everyone has different routes. I don’t think there is one proven way which is going to work for footballers.
“Some lads go over quite young and it works out. Some it takes a bit of time to develop. The League Of Ireland is a great place to develop.
“I played about 20 first-team games in the League Of Ireland (with Cork City) before I went over and they helped me out massively.”