McCarthy plays down significance of Long’s absence from Ireland squad
Manager insists decision to leave out Southampton is purely down to lack of playing time
Callum Robinson celebrates scoring his first premier League goal for Sheffield United in the game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy has dismissed the notion that Shane Long’s absence from the squad for Thursday’s game against Switzerland casts any sort of doubt over the Southampton’s striker’s wider future in the international set-up.
Long missed out on McCarthy’s trimmed down squad for what is a key game in Ireland’s European Championship qualification campaign but McCarthy says that picking the likes of Luton’s James Collins ahead of the 32-year-old came down to just one thing: who was playing the more first-team football of late.
“Look, it’s great to get that chance to play for Ireland and he’s had that; he’s what? Ireland’s sixth or seventh all-time scorer? And he will get that chance again.
“But I think that anybody who looks at the logic of who I have selected will see that the strikers have all been playing.”
McCarthy expressed particular satisfaction with the way Callum Robinson performed over the weekend with the Sheffield United player getting his first goal in the Premier League against Chelsea and the manager has, he says, confidence in the striking options that he has going into the game against the Swiss.
The absence of Xherdan Shaqiri from the Swiss squad might be more of an issue for his Swiss counterpart Vladimir Petkovic but, says McCarthy, “when you look at the Swiss team you realise that they still have some very good players”.
“Okay, when you look at the game and how you are going to counteract somebody like Shaqiri, it is difficult because he is somebody who can drift out of things for a long time, then suddenly make a very big impact and that can be difficult to counteract but whether his absence is really such a good thing we will have to wait and see.”
The dropping of Shane Duffy by Brighton, he acknowledged, was something of a concern for the future with the change of formation against Manchester City having the potential to limit the Derryman’s involvement if it becomes a permanent feature of the new manager’s approach. McCarthy didn’t seem too concerned, for now. “He’s missed one game and he has been excellent so it is not a factor for me this week.”
McCarthy says that if he was offered a point from the game, he would happily take it right now. “I probably would yeah, not that we are going to try to just get that but bearing in mind the points that we already have and the possibility of going through unbeaten to the end of the campaign . . .
“We’ll look to win the game but if it ended up being a draw then I’d probably be happy”.