An experimental Republic of Ireland line-up’s performance in securing a 3-1 victory over Bulgaria pleased goal-scorers James Collins and Kevin Long.
28-year-old James Collins cut a delighted figure having marked his senior debut with a goal.
“It is an absolutely amazing feeling, to make my debut for my country and top it off with a goal and a win. I don’t think it could have gone any better,” Collins said.
“I am 28 now and had to work my way up. I've managed to force my way into the squad. The gaffer has shown great faith in me and I’m delighted I could pay him back with a goal tonight.
“The lads have great quality on the pitch. I just tried to do I’ve everything I could. I’m delighted to have managed to do that.
“Jack Byrne was fantastic, he has got unbelievable quality when he came on and he put it on a plate for me. Even though it was a friendly, we said during the week that we wanted to win tonight. I don’t think there is any such thing as a friendly, we were the better team on the night and deserved to win.”
There were three Irish first-time scorers on the night including Cork native Kevin Long who didn’t hide his delight at finding the net.
“It is a brilliant feeling to play for your country,” Long said.
“A magnificent feeling and to top it all off with a goal is brilliant. I think in the first half that we kept the ball well but it just wasn’t quick enough. Second half, we upped the tempo and played a lot more forward balls. I think we dictated the game.”
Long was thrilled to see four Cork players represent their country and make an impact at senior international level.
“It is brilliant that there were four Cork lads on the team tonight,” Long admitted.
'There was four Cork lads on the team tonight so it's brilliant for Cork,' Kevin Long after scoring his first senior international goal in Ireland's win over Bulgaria. #rtesoccer pic.twitter.com/nbihuuvNo6— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) September 10, 2019
“That’s brilliant for Cork and brilliant for the lads themselves. I have not been playing for Burnley lately so it was a bit of a chance to get a game here. Playing for your country is always a proud moment. To get a goal as well, as I said, is brilliant.
“Jack Byrne was outstanding. He’s a great player and technically very good. You could see that when he came on and some of the passes he made including the delivery for my goal.”
Mick McCarthy was also pleased with the win over Bulgaria.
He said: “I said to a couple of them in there, that they came in and put a couple of crosses in. I said (shots) at least shoot them with a bit of venom. If you are going to miss you might as well miss with something. It might take a deflection and fly in, one shot came in, Browney (Alan Browne) was following in and scored. He got 12 last year, I think. I thought he was really good, I was pleased with Alan.
“Jack Byrne put in a great delivery for the first one. Big Kevin Long was in and it was a fabulous finish. Jack’s pass for the third goal was brilliant after James Collins had set it up. It was a lovely move all around and nice to see.
“It was 65 minutes for Conor (Hourihane) tonight and it was more minutes in his legs. I was never, ever taking him to Georgia to play as my left back. It was never in my mind but I don’t have to tell everyone everything do I?
“James McClean is probably one of my best options if I don’t have a recognised left back. I said we all know what I have got in Greg Cunningham and Stephen Ward though. We will see who is playing, If I want Wardy I think he might put his boots back on one more time for me.”
Mick McCarthy on Ireland U21 3-1 victory over Sweden
“Maybe I should take a bit of credit for not taking away any players from Stephen (Kenny). I could have taken Troy Parrott, Connolly and a few other players. But that would have just weakened them.
'I should take a bit of credit for that, that I'm not taking Troy away from Stephen. Stephen's got the best gig of all.' pic.twitter.com/OZEzCgKqAc— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) September 10, 2019
“Stephen has the best gig of all by the way. I have come in and settle this (senior setup) down. Stephen has some good results in the bag. He knows he is coming in whatever the date it is. In the meantime he is building his own team. I sent him a text today to say he has a good team and he has.
“Why does everyone say I should be pinching his players when our lads are doing really well? Troy has come on and scored two goals and Robbie (Keane) has told me I should see the but wouldn’t it be nice for that Irish U21 team to qualify?
“You think about some of the great teams like Portugal’s U21’s that came through. England now, all those U21 players came through together. Spain as well. Some of you lads want me to take them for our (senior) games and dismantle them. Do you know what, we have massive games coming up against Switzerland, Georgia and Denmark Are they ready for that? We will see."