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Wednesday 20 September 2017

Home form is patchy but Duffy hopes Dublin can be heaven

Shane Duffy
Shane Duffy

Shane Duffy hopes that a dose of home rule for Ireland can help the Republic overcome the dropped points in Georgia on Saturday night and get what's needed to stay in contention for Russia 2018.

Tomorrow's clash with Serbia in Dublin is now a must-win game for Ireland, Serbia already two points ahead of the Republic while Wales, expected to win their game with Moldova, would draw level with Martin O'Neill's men in the event of a draw with Serbia.

The Ireland camp are talking up home advantage as a potential match-winner against Serbia, but seeing as the Irish side struggled to beat Georgia in Dublin, didn't create a single chance against Wales in Dublin and had to come from behind to draw with Austria in Lansdowne Road, it's hard to place too much store in that talk about our home record.

Home displays in competitive games under Martin O'Neill have been patchy: so-called lesser nations like Gibraltar, Georgia (twice) were beaten, but draws with Poland, Scotland, Wales and Austria were less than inspiring, so it was left to the big days out at home to Bosnia and Germany for the current crop of players to stake any sort of claim for greatness on home soil.

But defender Duffy, who scored his first international goal in Georgia, feels that Dublin can be heaven.

"I think we play better at home," says Duffy, aware of the below-par display away on Saturday. "Any away game in Europe is quite tough, no matter the name of the country but we're looking forward to a massive game now on tomorrow which we can all focus on. That'll take us where we want to be.

Tough

"Get your points away from home, win your home games, I think that will get us there.

"If we go and beat Serbia we'll be top of the group. We've another tough game at home to Moldova and then Wales (away) is the big one. But hopefully we can get there before that."

As they trained in Dublin, away from the public eye as it was a media-free day for the Irish camp, the players were still dogged by thoughts of Saturday night in Tbilisi and what might have been, had they held onto that lead from Duffy's goal and won the game.

"We know we're a lot better than that. We can perform a lot better than that," says Duffy.

"I wouldn't say we're angry, just a little bit disappointed that we can play better. At the end of the day, we didn't lose the game, that was important at the end.

"We were going for the win and could have ended up losing it so we'll take the positives from that game."

Team-mate Stephen Ward is hoping for three wins from the last three games to make sure Ireland are in with with a shout for Russia 2018.

Beating Serbia may need a repeat of that remarkable Dublin win over Germany two years ago, but while Ireland needed a favour in that case - Georgia beating Scotland - on top of their own display against the Germans, Ward is upbeat.

"It's still in our hands, with that Germany game we still needed a bit of luck from somewhere, a result to go our way, here it's still in our hands," Ward says.

"Three wins and we'll be there so we have to keep the head, it's a case of disappointment today but we'll hopefully improve tomorrow.

"We need to improve everywhere, the manager said after the game that we have been in this situation before, we need to dust ourselves down and put in a much better performance on tomorrow.

"It was difficult to get close to Georgia and we're disappointed we didn't keep the ball, especially after the first goal. We have a lot of work to do before Tuesday. We are still in with a chance, it's in our own hands.

"We wanted to win the game in Georgia, we couldn't afford to lose it. So we move on to Tuesday."

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