SHANE Long has been ruled out of Republic of Ireland's must-win World Cup qualifier against Wales with a hip injury.

The Saints striker was hoping to end his barren run by helping the Republic of Ireland continue their World Cup dream at Wales’ expense, by winning their final group game.

But the injury has prevented him from playing in his side's the winner-takes-all clash in Cardiff.

The Irish will probably finish runners-up if they can win in Cardiff against a Welsh side still minus ex-Saint Gareth Bale through injury.

If the Irish fail to grab three points, their World Cup dream is over.

It was kept alive last Friday with a 2-0 win over Moldova in Dublin, where Long had several good attempts to end his long drought.

Long experienced a similar drought at the start of last season.

It took him until New Year’s Eve to net his first Saints goal of 2016/17, against West Bromwich.

A run of four goals in seven games in January and February included a famous last minute League Cup semi final second leg winner at Anfield.

But that purple patch stands out when it comes to looking at Long’s stats since the start of last season.

Remarkably for a player who scored 17 times for club and country in 2015/16, he has only scored six times in his last 61 competitive appearances for Saints and Ireland.

Long only started three out of Saints’ last 12 games of 2016/17 under Claude Puel.

This season, he has started just three more - with the most recent game at Stoke the first time he has completed 90 minutes under Mauricio Pellegrino.

Long last scored a competitive goal on February 11, a fortnight before the League Cup final.

Since then, he has gone 1,108 minutes for club and country without find the net - a total of 24 matches.

Nineteen of those games have been for Saints, though the club’s 2015/16 player of the season has only started six of them and only three times he has completed 90 minutes.

One of his rare starts was at Middlesbrough last May, where Long had a great chance to find the net but missed a penalty.

Both countries could still win the group, though they need current leaders Serbia - featuring Long’s St Mary’s colleague Dusan Tadic - to come a copper at home to Georgia.