“We have to stop talking ourselves down.” Eamon Dunphy’s words immediately following the Republic of Ireland’s nervy 1-0 victory over Georgia last night make for a welcome change. Yes, we seem to scrape vital wins in not always the sexiest of manners, but this writer thinks it’s time to be a little more positive.
Many of us in the (fairly paltry) 27,100 crowd in the Aviva Stadium were likely guilty of deriding Jeff Hendrick’s multiple misplaced passes early in the second half, but it was after all that very Derby County midfielder’s moment of magic that led to our 69th minute winner. Jonathan Walters’ goal could likely prove crucial in the Group D race to qualify for next summer’s European Championships in France.
The Boys in Green have locked horns with Georgia six times in total, winning all of those encounters. The important thing to remember though is that four of those victories were 2-1 nail biters, so it can really come as no surprise that last night’s fixture saw us crawl over the line to some degree.
One player in the Irish camp who often seems to come in for severe criticism is Glenn Whelan. It cannot be argued however that he was superb last night – committed in the tackle, the 31-year-old Stoke City man was a constant thorn in the Georgian side. Granted he may have picked up a very stupid booking for dissent that causes him to miss the crucial showdown with the World champions in Dublin next month, but that was the only negative on his card during an excellent night for Ireland’s qualifying prospects.
On a night where our all-time leading goalscorer was replaced at half-time, we can find solace in the fact that his replacement Shane Long contributed so much to the cause in the second half. We could also be negative and say we created very little clear-cut chances against a team ranked almost 100 places below us in the FIFA world rankings – but hey, we did keep a clean sheet to add to that against lowly Gibraltar last week.
Jonathan Walters put in another tireless performance, nabbing his 7th international goal on his 34th cap for good measure. His desire to get Ireland the much-needed three points was immediately evident from the kick-off as he chased down Georgian possession and gestured for his team-mates to do the same. It is that sort of determination Martin O’Neill’s charges will need in order to get a result from either of their last two games (v Germany at home: Oct 8th, v Poland away: Oct 11th). The Germans may arguably have improved since the 1-1 draw in Gelsenkirchen back in October of last year, but John O’Shea’s last-gasp equalizer will undoubtedly still be lingering in the Irish players’ minds, giving them hope of a similar upset.
The pundits over in Montrose are often the worst offenders when it comes to criticising Irish performances, and although on this occasion Dunphy’s words were far more encouraging, it is hard to ignore the fact that we are now facing into a game against the reigning World champions.
Then again, perhaps I’m being too negative. Maybe I should take a leaf out of Eamon Dunphy’s book and stop talking us down. Can we get a result against the Germans? Why not.