Mick McCarthy has outlined that Southampton striker Shane Long is “pushing all the right buttons” ahead of Ireland’s crucial playoff against Slovakia in March.
Long scored for the Saints in their FA Cup defeat to Tottenham in midweek and has found himself back in form under Ralph Hasenhuttl featuring in the club’s last seven games in all competitions.
The 33-year-old has been capped 82 times for Ireland but has yet to feature under McCarthy due to injury issues as well as a lack of regular game time during previous camps.
“I am sure people are fed up of me talking about the need for Shane to play first-team football but that is exactly what I have been saying to Shane since I got the job,” McCarthy told FAI.ie
“He’s been very unlucky with the timing of some of his injuries in the past year. Shane had to withdraw from my first squad with an injury and then missed out again in the summer after reporting into camp in Dublin.
“I’ve kept in touch with him and kept him in the picture regarding his need for first team football.
“He’s back in regular action now with Southampton and his goal at Spurs on Wednesday night was a real poacher’s goal, he was in the right place at the right time.
“Shane is playing again and scoring again and that means he is pushing all the right buttons ahead of Slovakia.”
📝 SCOUTING REPORT | Shane Long's recent performances for @SouthamptonFC means he is "pushing all the right buttons ahead of Slovakia" according to Mick McCarthy…
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) February 6, 2020
McCarthy also took the time to once again praise the in-form Portsmouth striker Ronan Curtis who has managed 13 goals and five assists in all competition’s so far this season.
Curtis has not been involved for Ireland since their friendly win over Bulgaria in September but according to McCarthy he is “right back in the frame” ahead of the Slovakia game.
“Ronan is flying with Portsmouth and, like Shane and Michael Obafemi at Southampton, we have been keeping a close eye on him in recent weeks.
“He had a bit of a dip in form earlier this season but he has really bounced back in style.
“He can score goals, as he has proven with 13 now for this campaign. Ronan is having a great season and he is right back in the frame for the game in Bratislava.”
One man who will definitely be involved in Bratislava, provided he is fit, is Brighton defender Shane Duffy, who recently had surgery on a blood clot in his leg.
Duffy faces a brief spell on the sidelines however McCarthy is confident that the Derry native will be fit for March’s playoff.
“I have spoken to Shane and he tells me he will be fine – trust me, if Shane says he will be okay then he will be okay as he has proven to me already in this campaign.
“It was a minor operation and Shane has told me it was better to get it done now and out of the way before we start to work on our preparation for the Slovakia game. That’s good enough for me.”