HE is the Saints striker who is more used to netting the ball with just his boot.

But Shane Long went back to his roots when he dropped in to a Gaelic football session at a Southampton school.

The Saints and Republic of Ireland star was invited to share his own Gaelic football talent with pupils from Springhill Catholic Primary school who have spent the last few weeks learning the rules of the game.

He wowed the pupils with skills he learned as a youngster in Ireland, playing to county level before making the decision to switch to professional football at the age of 16.

After giving the children a hand with their ‘punt passes’ and kicks, he took questions from the pupils in years 4, 5 and 6, telling the children about his career to date.

Having starting Gaelic football and hurling at the age of five, he trained every night of the week, playing at county level and for his home team Gortnahoe Glengoole.

But at 16 he faced a dilemma – to carry on as an amateur in Gaelic, or to take the plunge and make a name – and career – in English football.

And luckily for him the choice he made then has paid off now.

After playing for Cork, then Reading, the 29 year old came to Southampton in 2014 and is on a roll having scored ten goals this season alone.

He told the children: “I was in Reading for seven years.

"It’s where I first came to and where I learned my trade.

"But Southampton is the first place I feel really settled and last season is the best I’ve had.”

His roots in Irish football are strong, and he is keen to see the sport being played this side of the water.

“We get a lot of requests come through but when I saw this I was excited about coming down.

"It’s nice to see Gaelic go a bit global.”

And as his childhood sport it’s not only in his heart, but also in his prowess on the pitch. He said: “I think I get my leap from Gaelic football – it toughened me up as well.”

“I always felt part of the team in Ireland – people do it for the love of the game and being there for your teammates.”

Year 4 teacher Niall Kelly, originally from County Antrim, set up the extra-curricular session for both girls and boys, which culminated in the visit of Shane on the eve of St Patricks Day, Ireland’s national day. 

He said: “It can be really difficult to pick up but there’s a couple of the children have relatives in Ireland and they’re good at it.

"It’s a real community thing at home.

"It’s what you’re raised on.”

Niall, who plays with Hampshire Gaelic team St Jude’s Gaelic added: “It helped me settle in when I moved over here.

"There are lots of teams all over England – it’s really starting to spread.”

Pupil Joe Judd, 9, said: “I’m a fan of his because he challenges and pressurises defenders.”