Euro 2016

Shane Long and Daryl Murphy ready to do anything to win

  IN IT TO WIN IT: Ireland strike pair Shane Long and Daryl Murphy
Picture by PA
Andy Watters in Versailles

STRIKERS Shane Long and Daryl Murphy admit they’d repeat Thierry Henry’s infamous 2009 handball if it meant Ireland won tomorrow.

Henry controlled the ball with his left hand before passing to William Gallas as Les Bleus edged out Ireland 2-1 in a World Cup qualification play-off back in 2009.

The former Arsenal star has never been forgiven in Ireland, but the Republic strikeforce agree that all’s fair in love, war and football.

“He chanced his arm but if you get away with – you might feel guilty afterwards – but you win the game. I can understand why he stuck it out there,” said Long yesterday.

Murphy added: “If I had to do it I would, 100 per cent, if my country was going through.”

Long benefitted from Murphy’s support up front in the 1-0 win against Italy and both are expected to start against France.

The Tipperary native spent the previous game against Belgium operating as a lone striker and has had to graft unselfishly for the team throughout this tournament.

“I had one chance against Sweden when the ball came across and to be fair the left-back defended it well, pushed me out of the way,” he said.

“Other than that, I haven’t got much of a chance.

“But I feel I’ve contributed in other ways, holding the ball up well and working hard for the team trying to create things for other players. But it doesn’t matter who scores, if we win 1-0 and Randolph scores, I don’t care.”

It would be easy for the Republic team to feel like they’re in ‘bonus territory’ after that thrilling win against Italy, but Long rejected the suggestion this a “free shot”. “I wouldn’t say it’s a free shot, it’s a great opportunity you know for us to really make a mark in this championship,” he said.

“If we went out in the group stages, I think people would have been disappointed, but to go out there and win against Italy like we did, to deserve to win the game, to play good football and deservingly… you know we know we can play like that so why not do that against France and cause an upset?”

Unlikely as it seemed after the 3-0 loss to Belgium, the fact is that if Ireland beat the Euro 2016 hosts tomorrow they’ll have to be considered contenders to win this tournament.

“If we win on Sunday then it’s the winners of England or Iceland and whether we beat England or Iceland it’s on to Spain or Germany,” said Long.

“It’s probably the hardest route you can get but you are looking at that, but the France game is everything, it doesn’t matter what happens afterwards.

“I’m sure we can cause an upset but there’s a lot of hard work needed. You’ve got to back yourself to do a job. Against Belgium we went out with good intentions, everyone was on the same sheet, but it just didn’t happen, it didn’t click. They are the same sort of team, they have them players that can punish you so hopefully we can learn from that for Sunday.”

Meanwhile, Ipswich Town striker Murphy is still chasing his first goal for Ireland but he made his presence felt against Italy when he allowed the Republic to play a ‘put-em-underpressure style’ that proved too much for the Azzurri.

“This is what it’s all about, this is what you play international football for, to play in games like this, at this stage against teams of this calibre,” he said. “You couldn’t wish for any more. Of course we can take them, we have to believe we can.

“You take the game the other day, for instance, probably not many people thought we’d beat Italy but we believed we would and we have done that.

“It’s a different story now; France are the home nation and it’s going to be very hard but we believe we can beat them.

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Euro 2016