Ireland picked up a crucial 1-0 win over a tricky Georgian side in Mick McCarthy’s first game back at Landsdowne Road.
From the off, Ireland looked comfortable in possession with Glenn Whelan’s inclusion allowing the three in midfield to dominate the early exchanges.
Ireland opened the scoring in the 34th minute just moments after a protest from the Irish fans saw a shower of tennis balls enter the field.
The impressive Conor Hourihane rifling a free-kick past the Georgian keeper from 25 yards out.
In the second half, Georgia looked much improved and despite Ireland’s best efforts, they couldn’t grab a second to put them away.
Here are 11 quickfire conclusions as Ireland pick up a crucial three points against Georgia.
1) From the off, Ireland looked much more comfortable than against Gibraltar. They dominated possession in the opening 10 minutes and even put together a couple of promising openings.
2) The three in the midfield was an excellent shout from McCarthy. Ireland dominated the early possession and their work to win the ball back when they lost it was very strong.
3) Eyebrows were raised over Glenn Whelan’s introduction into the starting XI but proved to be a very shrewd decision. The Aston Villa man’s inclusion allowed Hourihane and Hendrick to get up and support David McGoldrick.
4) If there was a complaint to be made, it’s that against a stronger team Ireland may have gotten overrun in the midfield area. When Hendrick and Hourihane were getting forward they risked a break with just Whelan and the defence to deal with the Georgian attack.
5) Hourihane is also a tremendous asset from set-pieces for Ireland. He delivered a few very dangerous balls in against Gibraltar and his free-kick was beautifully struck against Georgia to give Ireland the lead.
6) Leaving Matt Doherty out was a massive call from McCarthy but there’s no doubt that Brady and Coleman worked much better on the right-hand side together. Brady cutting in on his left allowed Coleman more space to operate wider.
7) Georgia had promised so much in the build-up to this game but in truth, they arguably flattered to deceive at times, especially in the first half. They did, however, grow into it in the second and with 15 minutes to go kept pushing for the equaliser, which they were unlucky not to get.
8) How David McGoldrick was left out of the squad under O’Neill for so long beggars belief. The Sheffield United frontman is such a stylish player and brings something so much different to any of Ireland’s other attacking options.
9) The off-field antics of the week past certainly didn’t affect the players. If anything it galvanised them as they put a very professional display against a tricky Georgian side.
10) It’ll probably be a sidenote in the bigger picture but once again when called upon Darren Randolph proved his worth making a couple of crucial saves when the Georgians did attack.
11) It wasn’t all pretty but it was a huge upgrade from the slog against Gibraltar and it’s six points from six to start the campaign for McCarthy.