Euro 2016 fate in our hands – Long

first_imgLast-gasp goal hero Shane Long is convinced qualification for the Euro 2016 finals remains in the Republic of Ireland’s own hands. The Southampton striker came off the bench at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday to snatch a 1-1 draw with Group D leaders Poland and maintain Ireland’s hopes of clinching one of the two automatic spots, or, at the very least, the play-off berth that comes with third place. And he believes Martin O’Neill’s men can shape their own destiny as they prepare for Scotland’s visit to Dublin in June. Long said: “It’s definitely within our grasp. Getting that draw was obviously a big result for us. Losing three points to them [Poland], they would have gone six points ahead of us and it’s a big gap to claw back. “But we are still in touching distance now and it’s still in our own hands. We don’t have to rely on other results, so we’re confident that we have got a good enough squad here to get to the finals, and it’s just a case of getting it done and proving that.” Long’s strike came in the nick of time as the Republic recovered from a drab first-half display, during which Slawomir Peszko fired the visitors into a 26th-minute lead, to take the game to the Poles. However, fortune appeared not to be on their side as first Robbie Brady and then Robbie Keane hit the post. The clocked had ticked into stoppage time when Wes Hoolahan headed Brady’s cross down and he pounced to chip a close-range shot over goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski – a 12th goal for his country. Long said: “Wes leapt like a salmon at the back stick and nodded it back down and I took a touch and managed to get it over the keeper with a bit of help. “Scoring for your country is obviously a massive honour. I was on the bench and I was just waiting for my time to get on the pitch. “Luckily, I got the last 10 minutes. Sometimes the ball doesn’t fall for you, and sometimes it does, and it was just nice to see it hit the back of the net.” Press Association Had the goal come a little earlier, the Republic might even have emerged with a victory, but Long and his team-mates were satisfied with the outcome. He said: “We caused them all sorts of problems in the second half and were unlucky for the ball not to fall for us. But we’ll take the draw – we won’t get too greedy. “Against teams that are going to be right up there come the end of the campaign, losing three points to them could be massive, so just to keep within touching distance, we can go out there and maybe get a result and turn things around.” last_img read more