Shane Long expected to return to training this week

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Long scored Ireland's famous winner against Germany earlier this month
Long scored Ireland's famous winner against Germany earlier this month

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill has been handed a huge boost ahead of the Euro 2016 play-off with Bosnia & Herzegovina, after it was confirmed that Shane Long is set to return to action next weekend.

Some reports has suggested that the ankle injury Long suffered in Poland earlier this month could rule him out for a month, but those rumours now appear to have been wide of the mark.

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has confirmed that Ireland’s goalscoring hero of the famous win against Germany in Dublin a little over two weeks ago is close to a return and could play against Bournemouth next weekend.

“He is progressing well and I am hopeful he will be available next weekend,” said Koeman.

“Shane is working hard and we have good hope that he will be fit again for the game against Bournemouth.”

O’Neill will be heartened by the confirmation that stories suggesting Long faced a lengthy spell on the sidelines were wide of the mark, with the Tipperary native a vital asset and the scorer of the only goal in Ireland’s only previous meeting with Bosnia.

The Ireland coaching staff will be desperately hoping that Long will get some Premier League action under his belt before the first leg in Bosnia, with games against Bournemouth and Sunderland possible dates for Long’s return. 

However, O'Neill did suffer a blow to his plans on Sunday, with John O'Shea limping out of Sunderland's game against Newcastle with a hamstring injury.

O'Shea is suspended for the away leg of the tie against Bosnia, but he could be a key figure in the second leg in Dublin.