Kevin Doyle: Southampton striker Shane Long 'will worry the Wales defence'

Kevin Doyle: Southampton striker Shane Long 'will worry the Wales defence'

Kevin Doyle has backed his old strike partner Shane Long to be "fresh and raring to go" if he is selected to lead the Ireland line in Friday's crucial World Cup qualifier against Wales.

Long has started just seven Premier League games for Southampton this season as he has slipped down the pecking order of manager Claude Puel following the arrival of Manolo Gabbiadini in January. 

The Tipperary man had just 56 minutes of match action for the Saints under his belt in the last two months before replacing the injured Italian striker in the first-half at White Hart Lane on Sunday, as Southampton lost 2-1 to Spurs.

Doyle, though, who played with Long during their time together with Reading and on the international stage, is convinced that the 30-year-old will be desperate to explode out of the blocks and fire Ireland to a potentially decisive victory on the road to Russia 2018.

"Shane will be fresh and Ireland might actually benefit from getting him in a mood where is ready to do some damage," Doyle told the Sunday World.

"It can be difficult to slot into a club side when they are playing well in the league but these international matches are like one-off cup ties, and those are the kind of games Shane thrives on.

"If he gets the nod to start on Friday, he will be a player that will worry the Wales defenders."

Ireland* are suffering somewhat of an injury crisis heading into Friday's fixture at the Aviva, with Wes Hoolahan the latest to be ruled out of international action.

Harry Arter, Rob Elliot, Paul McShane, Ciaran Clark, Liam Kelly, David McGoldrick and Shane Duffy all miss out through various injuries, while Robbie Brady is suspended.

Daryl Murphy, meanwhile, has emerged as another player who may struggle to make the crucial clash as he was sent for a scan on a calf injury.

In further worrying news, captain Seamus Coleman and Jonny Hayes both sat out training today. However, word from Abbotstown is that they are not major concerns.

James McCarthy was due in today from Everton and will be assessed by the FAI medical team.

Wales will have star man Gareth Bale back for the game, something Ian Rush believes could be decisive.

"It's massive for Wales that Bale is there after his injury problems," Rush told Press Association Sport.

"He's been the most improved player in the world over the last couple of years and, as we've seen many times before, he is capable of winning a game with a moment of magic.

"Martin O'Neill is a very cautious manager and will do everything he can to stop Wales counter-attacking the Republic.

"But it is almost impossible to keep someone of Gareth's ability quiet for 90 minutes."

Third-placed Wales are still unbeaten in Group D, though their World Cup ambitions hang in the balance following draws with Austria, Georgia and Serbia.

Ireland are also unbeaten but sit on top of the group on 10 points, four clear of Wales.

Bale has already scored four times in the group to move within two of equalling Rush's 28-goal record for Wales.

*Republic of Ireland squad

Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph, Keiren Westwood, Colin Doyle

Defenders: Seamus Coleman, Cyrus Christie, Richard Keogh, Alex Pearce, John O'Shea, Andy Boyle, John Egan, Stephen Ward

Midfielders: Aiden McGeady, Glenn Whelan, James McCarthy, Jeff Hendrick, Robbie Brady, Conor Hourihane, David Meyler, Eunan O'Kane, James McClean, Jonathan Hayes, Daryl Horgan, Callum O'Dowda

Forwards: Jonathan Walters, Shane Long, Daryl Murphy, Kevin Doyle