Richie Sadlier says Mick McCarthy faces a huge call over whether to recall Shane Long for the Republic of Ireland's crucial Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia.
Long has been omitted from all of McCarthy’s squads since he returned for a second stint as manager, with the Tipperary striker’s last international appearance coming against Wales in October 2018.
However the 33-year-old is playing himself back into contention after scoring three goals in his last six games for Southampton.
Long topped the RTÉ Soccer Social poll over who should start up front against Slovakia on 26 March, receiving 61% of the vote with David McGoldrick in second with 25%, but Sadlier doesn’t expect to see him back in the starting line-up.
"The Shane Long situation is intriguing because, for whatever reason, Mick omitted him from the squad at the start of the season," said Sadlier.
"There is a debate to be had over whether he is good enough to start, whether he is reliable or consistent enough in front of goal.
"That’s whether to start him or not, but to actually remove him from the squad was a big statement from Mick.
"It’d be a huge call from Mick, not only to bring him into the squad but to start him.
"I think David McGoldrick plays. Mick is the type of manager where if you’ve done well for him, and you’re fit and available, he’ll go with you, particularly in a game of this importance. He’s said as much publicly."
Dietmar Hamann is surprised Long is not in the mix with Ireland and says he deserves a recall for the Slovakia game.
"I think Long should be in and around the team," said Hamann. "He should certainly be in Slovakia in March.
"Whether he's going to start, I’m not so sure. David McGoldrick has done ever so well for the team.
"Aaron Connolly showed that he has got a short fuse, a bit of an attitude in the games he has played. In a game that might turn out to be pretty heated, I don’t think he’ll be a good choice.
"It’ll be between the first two and as Long hasn’t been in or around the team for a while, I fully expect McGoldrick to be the centre-forward. But I would like to see Long on the bench at least."