A proud Corkman, Kevin Long is enjoying being back on familiar soil for a key part of the Clarets’ pre-season build-up.
Born in the city, Burnley’s training base in County Cork is only 15 minutes from Long’s family home.
“It’s nice to come back and see the family and get the nice fresh air back in Cork,” said the Clarets’ defender, who left the south-west of Ireland in 2010 to move to Turf Moor as a fresh-faced youngster before going on to become the Clarets' longest-serving player.
A number of that family will be on hand to offer support when Long makes another return to former club Cork City on Friday night when the Clarets play their first warm-up game of pre-season against the League of Ireland Premier Division side.
And Long makes no secret of the part they played in helping him forge a successful career in a part of the world where football is not the number one sport.
“For me it was always football. Growing up, my brothers all played it,” added the Ireland international, whose brothers Roy and Daniel have both been capped by their country at amateur level.
Kevin Long scored his first Premier League goal to help secure a vital win over Leicester last season
“I played Gaelic football and hurling at school but it was never a main sport for me.
“It is massive in the country. The big games everyone gets attracted to and have big sell-out crowds but for me it was always football.”
Long made his way through the youth system at Cork City before joining the professional ranks and playing close to 20 first-team games before Burnley came calling.
The ‘Rebel Army’ welcomed the transfer fee and have since strengthened to become league and cup winners and enter this season’s Champions League qualifying phase – losing the opening leg of their first qualifying-round tie 1-0 at home to Legia Warsaw on Tuesday night – as 2017 Premier Division champions.
“When I was there a couple of years ago I think they had a lot of financial troubles and in the last few years they’ve really kicked on,” said Long, who made his first return to Turner’s Cross and played alongside Tom Heaton, Ben Mee and Sam Vokes as Burnley beat Cork 3-0 in the summer of 2013.
“They moved back a few years ago and it’s always nice to be back. I will have a lot of friends and family at the game, which will be nice that way, but to get a few minutes at the start of pre-season and get going again with the lads will be a nice feeling.”
Long was the only Ireland international from Cork to play in the Premier League last season, being a flag bearer for the city and raising his own profile through his most prolific top-flight campaign so far.
The centre-back started 16 games – as well as three in the cups – as the Clarets enjoyed their best Premier League finish to date.
The long game has paid off as the only survivor from Burnley's first experience as a Premier Legaue club has reached 50 senior appearances for the Clarets - wrapped around a handful of loan spells - and returned for his latest pre-season as a key part of Sean Dyche’s squad and an established member of his national set-up.
“It’s a good feeling but I know I need to kick on now. I don’t want to stay at the same level,” Long told Clarets Player HD.
“I want to improve and I want to play a lot more games. This pre-season is going to be a good one.
“There’s going to be a lot of competition again but it’s what I’m striving for.
“One thing the gaffer thrives on is always moving forward and not staying in the same place.
“I think that as a club as a whole we have done that the last few years. We have always moved forward and we want to do that again this year.”