Ireland got their European Championships qualification campaign off to a perfect start with a 2-1 win in Tbilisi on Sunday. While the overall performance was heavily criticized by the RTE panel it is a positive start for the Boys In Green. Here are the main talking points from the game.
Aiden McGeady has been criticized in the past for his lack of end product but the Everton winger showed what he is capable of in this match, scoring two goals. The former Celtic man was really our only shining light in what was a disjointed display by Ireland against a limited Georgia.
McGeady’s winner demonstrated what the tricky winger is all about. His ability to produce a piece on magic in a pivotal time in the game and score a truly stunning goal could prove pivotal in the final standings. Many Irish players would have looked for a simple option perhaps afraid to take a risk with only a few minutes remaining, but McGeady has never been a player lacking in creativity and he turned a disappointing draw into a satisfying win.
It was perhaps not too surprising that Martin O’Neill elected to play five in midfield. but the inclusion of Stephen Quinn was quite a surprise. The 28-year-old has earned less than five caps and has not featured much for Hull City this season. Quinn is a midfielder who likes to play deeper than Wes Hoolohan and this saw Robbie Keane rather isolated against a Georgian defence than didn’t look the highest of quality.
Jonathan Walters playing on the right wing was also a rather surprising selection. If Ireland had been playing one of the more high quality teams such as Germany in their group then the work rate of the Stoke man would have been useful.
However, the lack of guile on the right wing saw Ireland struggle to create and Seamus Coleman who looked to have too much pace was not used as an attacking outlet as much as Martin O’Neill would like.
3. Defensively Solid
Ireland looked comfortable at the back in what was one of the few positives despite winning. Seamus Coleman, John O’Shea and Marc Wilson are all fully established Premier League defenders and this gives Martin O’Neill good quality to build a cohesive unit at the back.
Stephen Ward also put in a solid display and with the left back area short of options, the former Wolves defender could now establish himself in the back four. Ireland however will be up against greater attacking talent against Germany, Poland and Scotland.
4. If Ireland play one up front, Shane Long should start.
Robbie Keane still remains a great stalwart for Irish football, However if Ireland persist to start one striker upfront then Keane should probably be used as an impact sub.
Long seems to possess the suitable attributes to play upfront on his own rather than Ireland record goalscorer. The Tipperary man is more capable of running the channels, while his pace in behind would prove an asset especially if Germany persist with a high line.
Robbie Keane could play in a withdrawn role just off Long but against Germany Martin O’Neill is likely to start with one striker and he should consider starting Shane Long.
5. Let’s hope Jack Grealish declares for the Boys in Green.
Ireland could do with another creative option to bring on if the game is not going their way and Aston Villa winger Jack Grealish would provide Ireland with a creative & guile perhaps coming off the bench.
Despite only being 18, the young winger is immensely talented and he certainly could be an option in the full international side if he resists the temptations of the English FA. The youngster has been the outstanding talent in underage football for Ireland and if he declares for the Boys in Green he would add more quality to this Ireland squad.
Dan Dalton, Pundit Arena.