Shane Long deserves to be JOE Man of the Year for 2015 and here's why
He put the ball in the German net.
The JOE Men of the Year awards are just around the corner and aside from all of the other incredible categories and talented nominees, only one man-tastic man can walk away with the title of JOE Man of the Year 2015.
Each JOE writer will be making a case for Paul O'Connell, Rory O'Neill (Panti Bliss), Hozier, Conor McGregor and Jon Walters but Paul Moore wants you to vote for Shane Long. Here's why...
1) Describe his year using 5 emojis...
2) Why he must be JOE Man of the Year….
Our rugby boys have rightfully been in the limelight this year but trust me, Cardiff and London will have nothing on France next summer and Shane Long is a huge reason why the boys in green are at Euro 2016.
Like all sports, football is a team game but the most difficult job to do is score goals - the Tipperary man netted three times in qualification - but two of his strikes created more euphoria, joy and sheer 'lose your f**ing mind' levels of hysteria than any other candidate in this category.
There are a few extra reasons why Long deserves your vote and it's mainly due to his determination, character and selflessness. Cast your mind back to late March, Poland were the visitors to Dublin and Long - who had just scored against Burnley the week before for Southampton - was sat on the bench with Ireland in desperate need a goal.
There's a strong case for Long to be an automatic starter in O'Neill's side but I'm not going to argue that point here because there's something else that deserves much more attention and praise.
While sat on the sidelines, some footballers can easily get the hump and throw their toys out of the pram but Long is the exact opposite. He embodies the values that Irish football fans respect because his work rate, dedication and commitment to the cause can never be questioned.
The Tipp native was introduced against the Poles with six minutes remaining and he looked like a man possessed. His shrewd movement and intelligence ensured that he was in the right place to score a valuable equaliser and keep Ireland's qualification hopes alive.
Let's fast forward now to that memorable night at the Aviva as the world champions arrived needing a win to book qualification. Football can be fickle at times because amidst a team of Irish heroes, one man took his chance to ensure that his name will be forever remembered by football fans.
Ray's header in Stuttgart. O'Leary's penalty in Genoa. Ray's chip in New York. Jason's curler in Dublin. They're all iconic moments in Ireland's sporting culture but none of them were against the world champions.
Again, THE WORLD CHAMPIONS!
Let's be honest, it's tough to be an Irish football fan at times.
All too frequent qualification heartbreaks are made worse by a nostalgic yearning for past glories but in our 'downer moments', we rely on the memory of special games and goals to keep our optimism, hope and belief alive. That's priceless and it's the reason why 2015 belongs to Shane Long.
Ireland is a sporting nation, it's in our blood and touches every parish in the country, but ask yourself one question. What's going to be that defining 'Reeling In The Years' moment from 2015 that united the whole country?
This time, the answer is a long shot.
If you're still on the fence then you should know that Long is an incredibly decent and kind bloke as well. He took the time to pose for fans in Coppers after the match, loves his hurling and is happy to play guitar in Temple Bar to a crowd of strangers.
The decision is easy.
3) His stand-out moment…
Listen to that noise. Goosebumps.
4) What 2016 might bring…
Southampton have continued to be one of the most impressive sides in the Premier League - the Tipp man is still being deployed in wide areas as opposed to a more central position - and here's hoping that he continues to play a key part in the Saints' success.
Still though, Irish fans will want even more special goals from Long when this competition comes around. COYBIG!