O’Neill’s Long shot pays off as Leesider relishes full Irish debut 

O’Neill’s Long shot pays off as Leesider relishes full Irish debut 
2Ireland’s Kevin Long with Martin Harnik of Austria. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Grealy

BALLYPHEHANE man Kevin Long who has made a huge impression on Republic Of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill over the past few weeks described yesterday's competitive debut as a dream come true.

Many saw it as big decision for O’Neill to put him in, but it is a sign of the belief that he has in the Burnley man and to his credit, Long did not leave him down.

After playing in the friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay, Long made his competitive debut against Austria in the World Cup Qualifier at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Speaking after the game, the former Cork City FC defender described how he found out that he would be starting in the crunch encounter.

“The manager named the team just before the game, so that is when I found out. 

"He (Martin O’Neill) likes to keep us guessing. Everyone has to work hard in training all week and just hope that you impress.

"Thankfully, I impressed him enough to pick me.

“I thought first half we weren’t really at it and we really never got going. 

"The manager had a few words with us at half-time and I thought when we came out for the second half, all of the momentum was with us and we probably could have got all three points in the end.

“ I am delighted to make my competitive debut for my country. 

"It is every kid's dream to play for their country and I am absolutely over the moon to do so three times in such a short space of time.” 

On playing with Brighton's Shane Duffy in the centre of the Irish defence, Long added: " Shane is a great lad. He is great in the air, great on the ball and he speaks a lot as well which helps me that's for sure."

It has been a pretty a good few months for Long, having made his first Premier League start for Burnley back in May. 

One of his main goals for next season is to get more first team football with Sean Dyche’s side.

“Overall, it has been a brilliant campaign. 

"Our aim at the start of the season was to stay in the Premier League. Individually it has been a bit frustrating, I have not played a lot of games. 

"I came in and played the last three games which is good on a personal level.

“We have got a few weeks off now so I will recharge the batteries.

"I will go back to Burnley pre-season and I will try to hit the ground running and see where it takes me.” 

Not only at club level, but Long will be looking to feature again for Ireland in the World Cup Qualifiers come the Autumn.

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