Scouting Report: Long continues to impress for Saints
The Tipperary native, was forced out of McCarthy’s squad for the games against Gibraltar and Georgia last month with a groin injury, just 24-hours after joining up.
Long has since forced his way back into the first team at Southampton and scored his fourth goal in five games in the 3-3 draw with Bournemouth on Saturday. He also scored the fastest goal in Premier League history against Watford last week.
“The Ireland fans used to sing that Shane Long was on fire, well he is now so they can get the song ready again,” said McCarthy after a weekend full of good news ahead of the training camp in Portugal and the qualifiers away to Denmark and home to Gibraltar.
“I am delighted to see him scoring but just as happy that Shane is back in the Southampton team and playing on a regular basis. It’s his fitness as much as his goalscoring that pleases me because I know he was frustrated when that injury forced him to return home after just a couple of days with us in March.
“I’m not a manager who rates a striker purely on goalscoring. I played Freddie Sears for a long stretch at Ipswich with only a handful of goals but Freddie caused havoc for the opposition defence every time he played.
“Shane is a really effective centre-forward. These goals will just give him a real lift and boost his confidence coming back into our squad and that can only be good news with the training camp in Portugal and two big games on the horizon.”
The other big bonus for McCarthy over the weekend was Sheffield United’s automatic promotion to the Premier League thanks to their 2-0 win at home to Ipswich on Saturday and Leeds United’s 1-1 draw with Aston Villa on Sunday.
“I am so happy for David McGoldrick, Enda Stevens, John Egan and Scott Hogan,” said McCarthy. “I’m relieved as well because it means the four of them will be fresh, fit and rearing to go when we report for the training camp in Quinta Da Lago on May 21st.
“David has had an incredible season and promotion is just reward for both himself and the team while Scott has certainly given me food for thought with his recent goals. He’s worked hard to get back into the Blades team and is a contender for Denmark and Gibraltar now.
“We still have a number of players who could feature in the Championship and League One play-offs but having the Sheffield United contingent available for Portugal is a real help for the preparations for the two qualifiers.”
McCarthy watched James McClean and Shaun Williams as Stoke drew at Millwall in the Championship on Saturday – and was hoping to see young Irish defender Nathan Collins in the City midfield after his recent first team action.
Goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly saw four Irish players in action for Preston – Goalscorer Alan Browne, Callum Robinson, Sean Maguire and Joe Rafferty – in their 3-3 draw with Sheffield Wednesday, still without goalkeeper Keiren Westwood as he battles with a knee injury.
Coaches Terry Connor and Robbie Keane kept an eye on goalscorers James Collins and Patrick Hoban as Luton went down 2-1 at Burton and Dundalk beat Shamrock Rovers 2-1.
“James keeps on scoring which is great and I know Patrick set a new record for Dundalk on Friday and we’ll be keeping an eye on him in the coming weeks,” added McCarthy.
“Josh Cullen scored for Charlton against Gillingham and Ronan Curtis continued his comeback for Portsmouth with 66-minutes against Sunderland. They should both be involved in the play-offs so we may have to go to Portugal without them. We’ll have a better idea of who’s available for the training camp next weekend but it’s been a pleasing week all round.”