Ireland manager Mick McCarthy will make his return to Landsdowne Road on Tuesday night as Ireland take on Georgia in their second Euro 2020 qualifier in four days.
The Boys in Green limped to a 1-0 win in their opener against minnows Gibraltar and face a tough task at the Aviva when their familiar foes Georgia visit on Tuesday night.
With off-field controversies dominating the last few days, McCarthy will be hoping that his side can produce a strong performance and finish the first international break with six points from a possible six.
Let’s take a look at four burning questions ahead of Ireland’s clash with Georgia.
Will The Off-Field Incidents Of The Past Week Affect The Players?
As soon as Ireland stepped off the pitch in Gibraltar the FAI announced that it’s Chief Executive John Delaney would be stepping down from his role to become the new Executive Vice President of the organisation.
The news was met with contempt from many Irish fans as a further story broke in the Sunday Times outlining that the organisation had been paying the €3,000 a week rent on Delaney’s Wicklow home.
Talk of an in-game protest dominated proceedings on Monday, with Mick McCarthy outlining that if the rumours of tennis-ball throwing were true, then it “certainly wouldn’t help” the players on the pitch.
“It’s not going to help us play any better. I hope they support us. If they want us to have the biggest chance of winning, support us.”
The big question is whether talk of the protest and the off-field controversies will affect the players on Tuesday night. Given the fact that the game is against tricky opposition, it’s likely the last thing they would have wanted.
They’ll go out to do their job on the pitch but should the game not be going to plan and the crowd protest against the corporate governance, then the hostile environment will not do them much good.
All the makings are there for a difficult evening, let’s hope the Boys in Green can do the business on the field.
Will McCarthy Attempt The Coleman/Doherty Experiment Again?
In the lead up to Saturday’s game against Gibraltar, a lot of the talk was surrounding how McCarthy would fit both Seamus Coleman and Matt Doherty into his starting XI.
The new boss opted for Seamus Coleman, his captain, in his most natural position of right-back while pushing Doherty onto the right-side of the midfield.
The pair showed brief glimpses of link-up play but in difficult conditions, they struggled to click for the majority of the game with Doherty being replaced around the hour mark.
McCarthy admitted after the game that on this particular occasion his plan did not work but given the quality of both it will be interesting to see if he gives the pair another shot on the right-hand side.
He could always opt for Doherty in a left-back position or drop him from the starting XI completely which would be a bold but perhaps necessary move.
England always had the old adage of never finding the right way of playing Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard together in the midfield and McCarthy may be facing a similar situation here.
It will be intriguing to see what he settles on.
Can Ireland’s Strikers Finally Start Firing?
Sean Maguire and David McGoldrick would have looked at the Gibraltar game as the perfect opportunity to break their international ducks in front of goal.
It turned out that in the testing conditions chances were difficult to come by and neither were able to find the net as Ireland limped to victory.
Regardless of the mitigating factors the lack of goals was and continues to be worrying in this Irish side. Only Aiden O’Brien has found the net out of the four strikers available to McCarthy for tonight’s game.
Maguire especially is the kind of player that you feel needs a goal to help him kick-on at international level, but given his fitness issues, McCarthy may not risk him in his second game in four days.
There hasn’t been much talk of James Collins in the lead up to this game, but in one that is likely to be tight his form in front of goal could see him given an opportunity.
McCarthy urged his midfielders to get into the box more in an attempt to find the net and aid their struggling strikers but the frontmen in green need to step up sooner rather than later.
Will This Be The Game Georgia Finally Get One Over On Ireland?
Georgia have never beaten Ireland in nine attempts, but there’s no question that they are a nation who are improving and are edging ever closer the level of the Boys in Green.
The last time the side’s met in September 2017, Georgia arguably played Ireland off the park and probably should have come away from the game with more than just the solitary point they picked up.
Georgia also looked strong against the best team in Group D Switzerland, losing 2-0 but providing incredibly tough opposition as they so frequently do.
The off-field antics that have dominated the week, as well as Ireland’s shaky win over Gibraltar, mean that for the Georgians it’s a fantastic time to be playing the Boys in Green.
Do they owe us one? Absolutely. Will they get it? Hopefully not.