AIDEN McGeady was the hero as the Republic of Ireland launched their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a dramatic victory in Georgia. The Everton winger struck twice, the second goal coming in the 90th minute, for a triumph at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi that earned him the plaudits of both Martin Oâ€™Neill and Robbie Keane.
The manager said: â€œHe was the only player on the field that was scoring the goal. He really is a fantastic talent. He probably thinks at this age he should have been up there with the very finest players. He has that talent and he showed that tonight.â€
His team-mate Keane was equally effusive after McGeady, who had opened the scoring with 24 minutes gone, snatched the points at the death after turning on the edge of the penalty area and curling a delicious shot past the substitute keeper Roin Kvashvadze.
The captain said: â€œIf you score a goal like that, you deserve to win the game. If anyone else did that, the top players in the world, you would be talking about it for a long time. The turn, the touch, the finish â€“ only he could do that. No one else on that field would have been able to do that.â€
McGeady who played under Oâ€™Neill during the latterâ€™s time as Celtic manager had scored only three goals in his previous 69 appearances for his country. His double in Tbilisi in his managerâ€™s first competitive game â€“ he also scored in the 62-year-oldâ€™s first friendly against Latvia in November last year â€“ increased his relatively meagre tally significantly, and the second of them proved priceless.
McGeady was applauded back into the away dressing room after conducting a series of interviews following the final whistle, and admitted he did not know what to do with himself.
He said: â€œIâ€™d been doing a few interviews outside while the manager was talking to the team about the game. I was a bit awkward when it happened, I didnâ€™t know how to react really. It was nice.â€
Asked about his decisive strike, McGeady said: â€œThe second goal was all about concentrating on my touch. I had my back to the goal, I just thought Iâ€™d try something. It came off for me.â€œIt doesnâ€™t happen very often for me, but thankfully it went in.â€
McGeadyâ€™s 24th-minute strike gave Ireland an early advantage which was cancelled out in spectacular style by Tornike Okriashvili seven minutes before half-time. The game looked to be heading for a draw until the midfielder span and delivered the denouement to send the small band of travelling supporters into raptures.
Oâ€™Neill said: â€œWe got a goal in front and we were at our most comfortable when they equalised. It changed the complexion and momentum of the game. There was moments in the second half when it might have been worrying for us, but weâ€™ve seen it through. I think thereâ€™s improvement in the team â€“ weâ€™ve won away from home, which is terrific – but thereâ€™s definitely improvement in the team.â€
For the Georgia manager, Temuri Ketsbaia, a sixth successive defeat by Ireland proved hard to accept. The former Newcastle United player said: â€œIrelandâ€™s second goal was the only moment of quality in the second half. Perhaps a draw would have been a fair result and left both teams happy.
â€œOur performance is not what we want to see and we definitely want to see better games and results. We have limitations in the team and in Georgian football in general â€“ that is the reality we have to face.
â€œWe cannot fault the playersâ€™ effort and they stuck to task for 99 per cent of the time, but Ireland have 25 players who play at the top level with most in the Premier League.â€ – The Guardian