A Long Way From Tipperary But His Heart Is Right There
Shane Long, may have been on the losing side against Man Utd in his West Brom debut on Sunday but he will have been cheered by the news immediately after the final whistle, that his beloved Tipperary had defeated Dublin and thus qualified for another clash against Kilkenny in the 2011 All Ireland Hurling final.
The man from Gortnahoe had been a highly promising Minor hurling star with Tipperary reaching the All Ireland semi-finals in both 2003 and 2004.First capped for Ireland against San Marino, it was in March 2007, that Long gained his second cap, against Slovakia when he came on as a substitute, in a game which earmarked him as the first player to have played both Hurling and International Football at Croke Park.
But it could all have been so different for the Tipperary born striker had a bet with his hurling boss gone the other way.
After being spotted by Reading as a 17-year-old playing football for Cork City the promising hurling player had to make a choice between the two sports – and he left his decision to fate.
“I played hurling back in Ireland until I was 17 and had to give that up to give soccer ago.
“I spent six months at Cork City and all of a sudden I was in England playing for Reading.
“It took a bit of time to catch up and adapt.
“It’s gone well for me since.
“I was okay at hurling and got to quite a high level.
“It was a massive decision at the time to give up hurling and concentrate on football.
“It’s a decision I’m glad I’ve made.
“In the summers I go back and train with the local hurling team to feed the passion.
“When the hurling season finishes the soccer season begins.
“I think I played about 30 minutes for Cork City and a number of Under-21s games and I was spotted when Reading came over to watch Kevin Doyle.
“That was a big break for me and it was one a lot of players don’t get.
“In order to decide I made a bet with my hurling manager at the time that if they didn’t get through the first round I’d give it up.
“They were playing an easy team and lost, so it must have been fate.”
The 24-year-old hotshot added: “I’m used to the physical side of the game and I give as good as I get.
“I won’t shy away from any challenges.
“But I’ll give it my all and I’m sure if I do that I’ll get my just rewards.”
Despite being on the losing side, Long scored on his West Bromwich debut against Manchester United and can look forward to a long career in the Premiership – and for the Republic of Ireland at international level.
The Baggies Manager, Roy Hodgson had this to say about his new signing: “Shane is one of the most talented young strikers outside the Premier League and I’m delighted to welcome him to the club,” said WBA boss Hodgson on the club’s official website.
“The great thing about him (Long) is that even though he is still only 24 he has six years’ worth of experience of Premier League, Championship and international football and has margin for improvement in his game.”
“He is a goal scorer and a hard-working player who has a very good attitude to the game”
Several clubs were interested in the likeable young Tipp player – why choose West Brom?
““The thing that swayed me was Roy Hodgson and the experience he has. He showed his interest early doors and has been fairly keen since then.
“There were clubs out there seen to be giving me more money but it’s not about money to me. It’s a club here that appears to be on the up.
“I’m going to get a lot of game-time and the manager was a big part of my decision. It was interesting before I came up. I wanted to see how genuine he was and what ideas he had in mind and how the club was going to advance. When I met him, he gave off that aura that really excited me.”
Long though may well be looking for a new suit before too much time has lapsed. Manager Hodgson, aware that his Club will never be a Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal or Man Utd said of his new signings, this week:
“”People need to be sufficiently aware to realise we are still fighting with lesser resources and we are still pulling rabbits out of the hat to some extent.
“If you spend £100m you are likely to get more or better players than the team that spends £2-3million.
“If you want a Savile Row suit, you pay Savile Row prices but you can still put a suit on your back from Tesco’s.
“There are limits and it would be unfair to expect the Tesco man to look as good as the Savile Row man.”
Ireland have a home match against Slovakia on 2 September but with an away tie in Russia on 6th it is ‘highly unlikely’ that Long will be able to attend this year’s Kilkenny v Tipperary clash either. Remembering last year, when he was watching the game on TV at the Irish team’s hotel in Portmarnock, Long
Recalls watching his favourite team win the McCarthy Cup in fine style and also saw some of the lads he had played with as Minors pick up an All-Ireland medal – lads like Paddy Stapleton. Was he not envious? “”Obviously, I’d love to have had an All-Ireland hurling medal,” he says, ” but then there I was watching the match in the Irish team hotel wearing an Irish team t-shirt.” “So I can hardly complain.” This time round he will most assuredly be wearing his heart on his sleeve once more and willing that the Premier County defeat the Cats once again.