A Gritty Win over Georgia
by John O’Hara
As Dunphy and co sift through their analysis of the game, Martin O’Neill’s men will be celebrating a massive three points, which leaves them four points ahead of Scotland, with just two games remaining in the quest for qualification.
With six points in the bag in the past four days, to Scotland’s zero, things are looking good for Irish soccer, despite the poor attendance at tonight’s game. Whoever among UEFA’s personnel thought Monday night football would be a good idea need only look at the half empty Aviva Stadium tonight to see that it is the worst day of the week for a football game. At least a mid-week fixture leaves people with just a couple of days to get through, but a Monday night game is just not feasible with working people, especially those from the North-West.
On the pitch, Ireland had great performances from our own Seamus Coleman, who almost broke the deadlock in the first half, with a fabulous effort on the half volley, which produced a great save from the Georgian ‘keeper. Glenn Whelan, despite the criticism from the ‘grumpy old men’ from RTE put in a great shift, as did McCarthy, who takes unjustified criticism game after game.
Dunphy confirmed his status as the consummate contrarian, with the suggestion that Stephen Quinn should have been playing. First it was Andy Reid, then it was James McCarthy, now it’s Stephen Quinn. Dunphy really does love a cause and if he can’t find one, he just makes one up. Quinn, who is a tidy footballer is plying his trade in Division One, while McCarthy and Whelan are Premier League players. Hendrick is also a championship player, but he proved his worth yet again, with a messi like manoeuvre on the left flank to set up the only goal of the game. Dunphy fought the good fight to get McCarthy into the starting eleven, now he criticises him at every opportunity, saying tonight that he basically does nothing. Whether people can see it or not, McCarthy is a quality player, who we are lucky to have.
Shay Given had a few difficult moments, mostly with back passes and his lack of first team football is worrying for O’Neill, who will need his number one stopper on form for the final two games. On a positive note, Ciaran Clark, a man with connections to Donegal, had another solid match and his partnership with O’Shea could be the first choice pairing from now on, with Marc Wilson relegated to the bench. Clark is a potential Irish captain and it would be great to see him develop into the player he has the potential to be. Another positive was Robbie Brady, who had a nightmare opening couple of minutes, which would have brought back memories of Poland at home, but he went on to have a super game, driving forward, providing plenty of width and attacking options.
Whelan’s yellow card, picked up after a ludicrous decision by the ref, is a big disappointment, as he will miss the Germany game in October. Also missing is Derry’s James McClean, who tried to make an instant impression, getting a yellow card for his troubles, which rules him out of the crunch tie.
The match with Germany will be a tough one, but tonight’s result against Scotland will give the Irish lads hope, with the Scots getting two goals against the current world cup winners. The last time Germany came to town is not a night that Irish fans will remember fondly but this is a different Ireland team. The spine of the team is much stronger and although O’Neill has taken a lot of flak, they are difficult to break down and his full backs provide a great option going forward, allowing his midfielders to plug the gaps in the middle. It was these gaps that were brutally exposed on that fateful night and it’s hard to see the same thing happening next month.
A draw would be a fantastic result, as the lads get ready for the make or break tie in Poland a few days later. That night will decide the fate of O’Neill’s men and those who dare to dream are still hoping for a second place finish, which would bring with it automatic promotion. At the minute, a place in the play-offs seems like a great result, especially after the deflation in Dublin, when Scotland got that important equaliser, which seemed to destroy all hopes of a summer on the Seine.
Robbie Keane’s substitution at half-time will prove to O’Neill that starting Robbie is not really an option, with the pace and energy of Long a much more viable alternative, with Robbie kept in reserve. It’s disheartening for the Irish legend to be subbed at half-time, but it did result in a change of fortunes for the team and a change in tempo, with Long hassling and harrying the Georgian defence at every opportunity. John Walters scored his seventh international goal tonight, which is not the most prolific goal scoring record in football, but its importance cannot be overstated.
James McClean, almost got on the score sheet and he also should have had an assist after great work from Glenn Whelan, but Shane Long couldn’t apply the finish. And so it ended in a 1-0 win, but it’s a crucial three points and though the three grumpy men were far from happy, Martin O’Neill won’t care and as for the fans, they have only one thing in mind; qualification.