Home debutant Kevin Long admitted he was eager to lay down a marker in his first duel with Edison Cavani as Uruguay were swept aside with ease last night.
Ireland’s 3-1 victory generates a nice tone for the days leading up to Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Austria and Long was one amongst the plethora of contenders in the starting line-up aiming to shine.
He took that opportunity with aplomb, getting to grips early on with Uruguay’s lone frontman Cavani, who completed his club season in France for Paris Saint-Germain with a haul of 49 goals in 50 games.
Reputations mean little for Leesider Long, coming on the back of a campaign he finished in the heart of Burnley’s central-defence.
When a high ball was lofted into Ireland’s half after a mere three minutes, Cavani felt the blunt force of Long competing in the air, leaving him clutching his face.
Ten minutes later, the visitors saw their star striker limp out of the action and down the tunnel.
“He (Cavani) is a great player so it was important I challenged him early and to see what happened,” said the 26-year-old with a grin.
“This is international football and although Luis Suarez wasn’t in the Uruguay team, I know there would be top-class strikers to mark.
“It would have been interesting to see how I did against Cavani had he stayed on the pitch longer.”
Now that’s he in possession of the jersey, Long has no intention of relinquishing it easily.
“I want to stay involved. I’d never played for Ireland at any level before this week so I’m not taking anything for granted.”
Long’s international elevation clashed with the wedding of his brother Danny. It meant him missing the occasion and his family not being at Lansdowne Road for his bow.
“The wedding was on Friday and there’s 17 of my family flying to Marbella tomorrow but they probably watched the game on the television with a hangover,” he explained.
“I won’t get a chance to join them because I’ll be training but missing the wedding and family to play for my country is worth it.”
Meanwhile, man-of-the-match Harry Arter outlined why he was determined to put recent injury struggles behind him to report for duty.
“That’s one thing that I feel I’m good at,” asserted the Bournemouth midfielder.
“If I’m physically strong enough to get through a game, then I think I’m mentally strong enough to put that to the back of my mind and get on with it.
“In the past I’ve missed out on a couple of games through injury but I’m really pleased to be here now and hopefully I get another chance on Sunday.
“It would have felt like a long week if we hadn’t performed as a team or didn’t get a positive result but victory breeds confidence.
“Performances and results so far in the qualifying campaign have been really good and tonight was another good indication that we are going in the right direction.”
Arter was one of 10 players added to the squad after the midweek trip to America and emphasised the mindset demanded by Martin O’Neill. “He sat us all down when we arrived in and insisted the preparations started straight away.
“We know Austria will be a massive test so confidence-wise you want to go into a big game like that with a good performance and result behind you. That’s what drove us on tonight.”
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