herald

Saturday 18 August 2018

aiden fills in goal gap

With Robbie giving a disappointing show up front, winger delivers man-of-match show

Great result, great performance from Aiden McGeady and three points banked. All told, a great night in Tbilisi.

Martin O'Neill knows he still has plenty of work to do with this team but he should be very pleased with his night's work.

I thought Ireland were okay, but not great. There was possession to burn, but we didn't do an awful lot with it and as the clock wound down, I was happy enough to settle for a point.

It looked like Georgia were too, but they made the fatal error of handing Ireland the ball in the crucial final ten minutes - and I always felt there could be another goal in us.

Georgia had one or two decent players who had to be beaten. It took McGeady's magical footwork to do it.

The possession Ireland enjoyed was unusual for a team in green away from home and while we did pass well, there wasn't much in the way of an end product.

The situation wasn't helped by a poor performance from Robbie Keane, who looked leggy and not quite at the pace of the game.

I wonder are we seeing the final few games of his wonderful career? That's a decision for O'Neill to make but on the evidence of this game, Robbie is struggling at this level of football.

He didn't get great service and he was working in a crowded area but this was about as ineffective a performance from him in many moons.

McGeady filled the goal-scoring gap, however, and after years waiting for a night like this from the tricky winger, it was brilliant to see him turn on the style and score twice.

He was good for most of the game but excelled in the final half-hour when Ireland needed him.

Two or three times before he scored the winner he caused havoc in and around the Georgian penalty area. He had a free-kick which slipped just wide and another shot which flew just over.

McGeady admitted himself in the run-up to this game that he was long overdue a man of the watch performance and it was well worth the wait.

He started the Premier League season with a sweet goal against Leicester and now he has two international strikes to boast about.

Other good performers on the night were James McCarthy, who put in a good shift in the first half, and Stephen Quinn, the surprise selection.

I was amazed that he started instead of Wes Hoolahan but he justified being in the team with an eye-catching performance, which was full of energy and commitment.

I was even more surprised when O'Neill brought on Robbie Brady late on when it looked to me that Hoolahan's ability to unlock a defence would be needed.

I was disappointed in Seamus Coleman, who never really got going, and both Stephen Ward and Marc Wilson won't be dwelling on this game for long if they can help it.

Perhaps I'm being picky but I thought we could have played better, particularly at the back, and O'Neill will know that he has plenty of tweaking to do before the next game against Gibraltar at the Aviva.

Still, three points is three points and it cannot be a bad thing that Ireland have won away from home without shooting out the lights.

O'Neill has proved one thing straight away. Giovanni Trapattoni was wrong. Ireland can play a bit of football and win football matches.

Now, with a steady improvement as the group goes on, we can look towards getting to France with real hope.

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