SO FAIRYTALES do begin at 26!
Former Cork City and Kilreen Celtic man Kevin Long, having never been capped at underage or U21 level, made his home international debut in the excellent 3-1 win over Uruguay before over 27,000 at the Aviva Stadium last night.
The man from Connolly Road in Ballyphehane came on as a substitute in the friendly with Mexico in New Jersey but he played the full 90 minutes yesterday, and did so well alongside Shane Duffy, that he was being tipped to possibly start next Sunday’s World Cup qualifier with Austria.
Long who went to Burnley for £100,000 in 2009 on the recommendation of a Cork City supporter to Cliff Roberts, then chief scout at Turf Moor, missed his brother Danny’s wedding in Spain to play for his country.
The centre-half was signed for Cork City’s U19s by Stuart Ashton, now assistant manager at Cobh Ramblers, and made his first team senior debut under Paul Doolin.
“The last few months have been brilliant. To make my home debut and win 3-1 against Uruguay, it couldn’t have gone any better.
"I don’t know about not facing Luis Suarez or Edison Cavani but this is international football so you’re going to come up against top-class players, no matter what.
"I wasn’t really focussed on who I was playing against, only my own game.
"I did it for the team. Martin (O’Neill) just told me beforehand to play my usual game.
"That was pretty much it,” said Long when he spoke to Evening Echo Sports after the game.
“There’s a big squad here with a lot of competition, so everything is geared towards the Austria game.
"Training this week will be tough and competitive but there are places up for grabs okay and you can’t rule anything in or out.
"I have my foot on the ladder at last and I want to stay involved.
"All I can do now is keep training well and hopefully, that will sway the manager’s decision.
"Shane Duffy and Stephen Ward were a big help to me.
"They are great players. I’ve known them a while now, so it was easy playing alongside them,” he added.
Long only had 11 minutes up against PSG legend Cavani and said: “Obviously he’s a great player, it would have been interesting how I did against him had he stayed on the pitch longer.
"Yeah, I had to give him one early and see what happened but I laid down a marker there,” added Long.
See P44 for more.