Shane Long is perhaps one of the most multi-talented sportspeople this island has produced. He kicked some ball with the Tipperary minor footballers, picked up a Munster Minor Hurling Championship in 2003 and played in two All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship semi-finals at Croke Park (he would later go on to become the first player ever to play both international soccer and inter-county hurling at Croke Park). As well as this, he has a Tipperary U15 Doubles Title in badminton and in 2002 became the Irish champion for his age group in the 100m and 250m hurdles before beating the best the rest of the UK in the Celtic Games' 80 metre hurdles.
And it's clear that a young Shane Long's attitude towards all the sports he played as a youngster helped to get him to where he is today: preparing with Southampton for the EFL Cup final against Man United at Wembley on Sunday.
Tipperary publication The Nationalist was speaking to Jerry Lyons, a man who coached a young Long as an underage athlete. And Lyons painted a picture of a cocksure, talented but determined teenager destined for bigger and better things. He told Dylan White:
I remember taking a 13 year old Shane to the County Championships in Templemore and he was beaten by an athlete from Moycarkey in the high jump. Shane came to me whinging and said, 'The cheek of him to beat me, I’m an All-Ireland champion!' But Shane jumped brutally that day and he admitted it. He went away, improved and came back better and stronger than ever. He has always been driven to be the best.
His will to win was phenomenal and that has got him to where he is today.
Long never comes across as lacking in confidence, no matter what difficulties he is experiencing in the scoring department. And it seems (according to Lyons) that this was always the case:
I was delighted when Shane came to me and said he was joining Cork City. Shane had a massive ego but could back it up with his performances. He was very confident in his ability, particularly after getting his running technique right with us at Slieveardagh AC, and I knew that move was the beginning of great things for him.
The improvement of his running technique at Slieveardagh AC, the bravery and courage (among other things) he learnt in hurling, and undoubtedly some benefit that came from badminton as well - there's a wide range of people who can claim some small part in shaping the footballer we see today, and Jerry Lyons is one of them.
Read the full piece in The Nationalist here.