FOR a county famed for it’s love of hurling, Shane Long showed the world last night just how far he has come since leaving Tipperary for a soccer career in England.
His 13th minute header didn’t win the game for Ireland but it will never be forgotten and the 26-year-old will never tire of watching it.
It was no surprise that the cross for the goal was delivered by Seamus Coleman who once again was excellent at right back, producing an assured performance which further nailed down his position in the Giovanni Trapattoni’s starting XI.
The duo were singled out for praise by the Italian at his post match press conference during which he also lavished praise on James McCarthy who will have a host of options this summer as he looks set to leave Wigan Athletic following their relegation to the Championship.
The fresh faced trio didn’t play a minute between them at the European Championships last summer.
McCarthy stayed at home to be with his father who was undergoing treatment for cancer, Coleman was not selected in the squad and Long was left kicking his heels on the bench which baffled Ireland fans as much then as Wes Hoolahan’s exclusion did last night.
Trapattoni was asked post match why the Norwich City play maker spent the match on the substitutes bench.
He responded by talking about how the match required physically strong players and with Hoolahan standing about half the size of Niall Quinn that meant he was left wondering if Lionel Messi has any spare growth hormone injections lying around his Barcelona mansion.
Long is certainly no giant himself but he leaps like a salmon and is a lot more effective up top that the Conor variety of who was introduced late on as Ireland ran down the clock to secure a draw which is of no real surprise given Trapattoni’s fondness for them.
Next up is Georgia on Sunday.
The crowd is unlikely to be anywhere near as vocal as last night where the Irish fans though considerably smaller in numbers out sang the home supporters in a game that will be remembered for all the right reasons.
There were some Danny Dyer characters hanging around Wembley alright but that’s just football in England rather than because Ireland were in town.
The anthems were respected by both sets of fans, in fact Ashley Cole received more boos when his name was beamed out over the over the top tannoy system.
Whether Long, Coleman or McCarthy can reach 100 caps remains to be seen but last night they came of age and a few Premier League managers will have taken note.
You’ll never beat the Irish and you won’t see many better goals than the one produced by the Gortnahoe legend, Tipperary’s Shane Long.