Mick McCarthy was impressed with what he saw from Shane Long on Saturday. The Ireland manager was in attendance as Long played 86 minutes in Southampton's defeat to Burnley in the early Premier League kick-off.
The 33-year-old is yet to feature for McCarthy in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign due to a mix of injuries and lack of game time for his club.
With the playoff against Slovakia just five weeks away, barring injury, it appears Long's chances of featuring are good. Saturday's game was his fifth consecutive start for Southampton.
After the final whistle at St Mary's, McCarthy made the short trip down the coast to see Portsmouth face Shrewsbury where Ronan Curtis, Marcus Harness and Max O'Leary were all in action.
"Shane looked fit against Burnley, he’s got that athleticism back and the sharpness that comes with playing regular first team football," McCarthy told the FAI website.
It was a tough old game but he was right there in the middle of it.
He was competitive throughout the game and he’s back where we need him to be to push for a place on the plane to Slovakia which is good news while Ronan is making his claim for the play-off as well.
He didn’t score against Shrewsbury but you could see how confident he is at the minute. He’s on top form with Pompey and he did well on Saturday, as did Marcus Harness who may well feature for us in the future.
Getting to see Max O’Leary was a bonus. Max trained with us in Portugal in the summer while he sorted out his paperwork and while he could do nothing about the two goals on Saturday, he looks a good goalkeeping prospect.
Ciaran Clark suffered a bad ankle injury late in Newcastle's defeat to Arsenal on Sunday. It's an injury which puts his playoff participation in serious doubt. James McClean is also a doubt due to a knee injury.
"I sent Ciaran a text on Monday wishing him well and assuring him, as we did with James McClean when he got injured last week, that we will give him all the time he needs to get fit for Slovakia," McCarthy said.
"Like with James, we have to wait for Ciaran’s injury to settle down before we know the full prognosis. The game in Bratislava is still five weeks away on Thursday and I will give both players as long as I can.
"You just don’t know at first with these injuries. I’ve seen everything from two weeks to eight weeks for James’ recovery so I will check in with him again later this week and see how he is doing."
The drop to League One football appears to have done Glenn Whelan's chances of featuring against Slovakia no harm.
"Glenn has made Fleetwood tough to beat since he went there," said McCarthy, "they haven’t been beaten in the six games he has played in and he was Man of the Match against Peterborough at the weekend. That’ll do for me."
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