Shane Long insists the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2016 mission against France has nothing to do with Thierry Henry and everything to do with winning a place in the quarter-finals.
The Republic face hosts France in Lyon on Sunday knowing they could be just 90 minutes away from a place in the last eight.
However, much of the build-up to the game has centred around the last time the sides met in November 2009, when Henry’s handball effectively cost Ireland a trip to the World Cup finals in South Africa the following summer.
But Long is looking ahead rather than over his shoulder as he targets another big result for his country following Wednesday night’s precious victory over Italy.
He said: “The press are trying to make a big thing about this with ‘revenge’ and ‘Ireland are coming for revenge’. It’s not about that at all. It’s the last 16 of the Euros. It’s a massive opportunity for us as a small nation to really kick on.
“It’s a tough game, but we’re approaching it like we do any other game. We’ll look at their team, their set-pieces, their individuals and put a plan together that sees us beat them.”
Southampton frontman Long, 29, was asked to lead the line in each of Ireland’s three Group E games and has found himself on the wrong end of some rough treatment in the process with referees less than sympathetic to his cause.
But he has no complaints as long as the playing field remains level.
He said: “The Premier League is a fairly tough league as well, so I’m used to getting battered around. It’s only bangs and knocks, it’s nothing too serious, touch wood. I just get on with it. It’s fine.”
Martin O’Neill’s men were roared on by a bumper crowd at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille on Monday night when the green shirts vastly outnumbered the blue of Italy, although they have been allocated only around 4,500 tickets this time around with demand from French fans understandably high.
Long said: “To only get a small, small allocation of tickets for them is not fair, in my eyes. But I’m sure they will still be around and they’ll nick and get tickets somehow and get in little pockets in the stadium.
“Five thousand Irish fans will still make a lot of noise.”