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'Roy saw him play last week' - Burnley defender brings fresh option to Ireland

Former Cork City man Kevin Long has been included in Martin O’Neill’s extended squad for the series of games in June.

Long playing against Bournemouth last weekend.
Long playing against Bournemouth last weekend.
Image: Steven Paston

THERE WAS ONE new face on Ireland’s squad list when it was released earlier today.

Among the 38 names — and alongside club mates Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick and Stephen Ward — was Burnley defender Kevin Long.

It’s been a long road for the 26-year-old, who joined the Clarets from hometown club Cork City back in 2010.

He has suffered a torrid time with injuries over the years and had loan spells with Accrington Stanley, Rochdale, Portsmouth, Barnsley an MK Dons.

However, Long made his first Premier League start for Sean Dyche’s men in the 2-2 draw with West Brom earlier this month — playing 90 minutes at centre-half. He also featured in Saturday’s defeat to Bournemouth.

With Newcastle United’s Ciaran Clark ruled out with knee trouble, Long will be hoping he makes the cut when the Ireland boss whittles his panel down.

The Boys in Green play a friendly with Mexico in New Jersey on 1 June before returning to Dublin to take on Uruguay on 4 June.

Then there’s a massive World Cup qualifier against Austria a week later. At the halfway point of the campaign, Ireland sit joint-top of Group D — level on points with Serbia.

“Roy saw him play last week and he said you wouldn’t discount him,” O’Neill said of Long. “He’s a player who has had a host of injuries.

We’ll keep a little eye on that, he didn’t do too badly in the game and I’ll have a look. Hopefully he plays next week in the last game of the season.

“There was doubt about him playing in last Saturday’s match but I think their normal centre-half was recovering from injury and didn’t make it on time.

“It’s nice. He’s had a couple of games and with Ciaran Clark out it’s a bit of competition for places.”

Marc Wilson Marc Wilson is back after a long lay-off. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Another player who has had more than his fair share of fitness problems in recent times is Marc Wilson. At one time a regular in the Ireland backline, the Antrim man has made just one appearance in a green shirt in the past 18 months.

But the 29-year-old, who joined West Brom on loan from Bournemouth in January, has lined out in the Baggies’ last two league matches and he also makes a return to the international fold.

“He’s had a really tough time but he’s back with a club manager who knows a lot about him [Tony Pulis] and he’s getting himself involved now,” added O’Neill.

“Fitness was an issue with him this time last year. He had done pretty well for us during the qualifiers, and had he had a little bit more playing time you never know he might have made it to France.

He has been a long time out and I’ll have a look at him but Marc is a really genuine lad and it’s nice to see him back.”

There are growing calls for O’Neill to give Cillian Sheridan the chance to win his first cap in seven years after an excellent start with Polish club Jagiellonia Bialystok.

However, the Cavan native is down the pecking order at present according to the Ireland boss, who said:

“Other people are in front of him at the moment but we will certainly be keeping a close eye.”

Similarly, Cork City striker Sean Maguire has a lot more to do to earn international recognition.

“I’ll keep monitoring as I do with a number of players who haven’t made the squad,” replied O’Neill, when asked about the League of Ireland’s top striker. “We’re preparing for this game, it’s good to see he is doing well but I think there are a couple of lads in front of him at the moment.

“If he continues to progress, there’s no reason why he can’t make it. We’ve shown it before with a couple of lads from the League of Ireland coming in. It’s down to experience as much as anything else.”

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