SHANE LONG HAS described being axed from the Republic of Ireland squad for the group stages of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign as a “killer blow”.
But the Southampton striker insists he has remained civil with international manager Mick McCarthy, and that he is even dreaming of scoring the goal that could help his country reach the Euros this summer.
McCarthy excluded Long throughout the Group D games because the 33-year-old had fallen out of favour with his club.
Long, speaking to Southampton’s website, admitted he had hoped he would remain part of the Ireland set-up in order to put his club woes behind him.
“I spoke to him about it, we kept it very civil, he told me his reasons and I accepted that. It was tough because I was really looking forward to it at the time and I needed that game time.
“I wanted something to clear my head because I wasn’t involved here, so that was a killer blow for me,” Long told the club website.
“I think it was the first squad since I’ve got into the Ireland team where I’ve been fit but not selected. It was tough for me to take – another body blow, as I say, but I’ve got over it.
“I’m still in touch with the manager – we haven’t fallen out or anything. He keeps texting when I’m playing, saying ‘good game today’ and keeping me encouraged.
“It’s about keeping my place in the squad so when it does come to picking that Ireland team I am involved, because they’re massive games.
“I pride myself on playing for my country. I love playing for Ireland so I want to do everything I can to get into that next squad.”
Ireland manager Mick McCarthy.
Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
Long has re-established himself in Southampton’s starting XI, forging a dangerous partnership in attack alongside Danny Ings.
McCarthy has hinted in recent weeks that the Tipperary native is firmly back on his radar for the upcoming play-off with Slovakia, and with a possible winner-takes-all clash away to Northern Ireland also on the horizon, Long is determined to make an impact.
“It’ll be an amazing occasion if it does happen. To get the winning goal that could send us to the Euros against Northern Ireland would be something I’d be very proud of.
“I’ve experienced major tournaments twice before – the atmosphere and the Ireland fans are amazing. The first time you’re a bit oblivious to what’s going on, but the second time you appreciate it a bit more.
“We’ve got a good squad; we were unlucky in the group stages. We had a tough group and just came up short. We deserve our chance to go through the back-door way.
“It’s up to us – we’ve got two games to win and it won’t be easy. I’m going to be doing everything I can to be a part of it.”
Having faced numerous critics over the course of his career, Long also revealed his reasons for shutting down many of his social media channels in order to concentrate on his career and family life.
“I decided to come off it and it’s been refreshing. I’m not sat at home on my phone now. I’m playing with the kids or doing something else.
“For me it’s just not that appealing. I never really got into it that much, and when you’re getting abuse like that there’s no need. You know yourself if you can do better or not – you don’t need some keyboard warrior’s opinion.
“Even when it was good news I didn’t take any notice, so why listen to the bad stuff? There’s so much negativity, especially on Twitter.”
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