After coming to the Republic of Ireland’s rescue on Sunday night, Shane Long says his goal could prove vital in their bid to qualify for UEFA EURO 2016.
Long had to wait for his chance against Poland, being introduced by manager Martin O’Neill in the 83rd minute at the Aviva Stadium.
But the Southampton striker was quickly into the thick of the action, prodding home a crucial equaliser in stoppage time to keep O’Neill’s side within touching distance of Poland, who lead the way in Group D.
Long has been in good form for Saints in recent weeks, and found the back of the net in the 2-0 win against Burnley before the international break for his fifth goal of the campaign.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Long said the goal is one of his best moments so far for the Boys in Green. “It’s up there with scoring against England at Wembley for me,” he said.
“It was a great feeling, and that could be a massive point come the end of the campaign. Towards the end the Irish fans were getting louder and they got us back in the game.
“We learned lessons against Scotland and we dug deep to get the point against Poland. To keep in touching distance with them is the big thing for us but we need to be winning our home games.
“I think for the first 35 minutes Poland were brilliant, it took us a while to get into them. The gaffer changed the shape a little bit and from then we were right in the game.
“We’d have been very disappointed not to get a draw out of it, even though we did nick it at the death. We were excellent second half and could even have got the win.”
Ireland face Scotland at the Aviva Stadium in June, and Long is looking to make up for the disappointment of losing 1-0 to Gordon Strachan’s side at Celtic Park back in November.
Scotland sit two points ahead of the Republic of Ireland with five games played, and Long was quick to highlight the significance of the upcoming fixture.
“Yeah [the game is vital]. After dropping three points at Celtic Park it was a bitter pill to swallow,” Long added. “Hopefully we can get those three points back and get right back in the running.
“I think it’s going to be between us and Scotland. We can’t be dropping points to the teams around us.
“We need to make it a fortress but I think the main thing was not to lose against Poland.”