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Thursday 21 September 2017

Ward: We know what to expect

Defender Stephen Ward insists Ireland can deal with the heat and whatever Georgia will throw at them in Tbilisi tonight. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Defender Stephen Ward insists Ireland can deal with the heat and whatever Georgia will throw at them in Tbilisi tonight. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Stephen Ward believes that past experiences in Tbilisi have left Ireland in an ideal position to profit from their trip to Georgia for tonight's World Cup tie.

Having won there 2-1 in 2003, in Ireland's first trip to Tbilisi, most of the current squad were also on board in 2014 when two goals from Aiden McGeady, the second and crucial goal coming in the final minute of normal time, it's a case of old ground for the squad as they trot out onto the turf in the Dinamo Stadium this evening.

"It's obviously a tough place to go. I think we performed quite well in the game but it took a bit of magic from Aiden in the last minute to win the game," says Ward, about to win his 44th senior cap this evening.

Result

"When we were on the way back, I don't think we realised how big a result that would turn out to be going over there.

"The one thing you look at it is the location, the logistics of getting there, and it was quite humid last time.

"We've been there before, I think it helps we've had them in our group before and we know what to expect so we'll be fully prepared."

Having already played this group of Georgian players in the last few months, in the Dublin leg last year, Ward has seen the opposition up close and he sees a side who have improved since that 2014 meeting.

"At the minute in international football every team is improving, but they seem to be getting better and better," says Ward. "Every time you watch their games they make it tough for people, they've had a decent result against Wales, they pushed Serbia close so it's not going to be a pushover, we'll need to be on our game, give them the respect they deserve and put in a good performance to get the three points.

"You've seen the results they can pick up in groups - they've already had a say in this group. They'll be looking to turn us over.

"We've got to do our own job, concentrate on our own performance first and foremost.

"It does help that we've been there quite recently and know what to expect in terms of the weather, the travel to get there, the time difference.

"We will prepare as well as we can but we will go there with confidence as well after winning there before. We'll believe we can get a result but we have to be on our game to make sure what happened to Scotland in the last group doesn't happen to us."

Ward is on a high at club level, having scored in Burnley's win over Chelsea on the opening day of the new season.

"It was great, it was probably more shock than anything. We were probably celebrating in the corner after going 3-0 up, in a bit of disbelief. It was a great start for us, a great start for myself," added the former Bohemians man.

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