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Sunday 25 February 2018

Estonians pinpoint McGeady as main threat to Euro dream

Aiden McGeady: striking fear into the hearts of Estonia's finest footballers. Photo: Getty Images
Aiden McGeady: striking fear into the hearts of Estonia's finest footballers. Photo: Getty Images

Cathal Dervan

Aiden McGeady is the Irish player striking fear into the hearts of Estonia's finest footballers ahead of their biggest game on the international stage.

Robbie Keane, Damien Duff, Richard Dunne and Shay Given all know what it feels like to beat the Estonians as they look to repeat their Tallinn success of 2001 tomorrow.

But Spartak Moscow winger McGeady is the one opponent the Estonians have earmarked as the real threat to their hopes of a shock win in the Euro 2012 play-offs.

"I am afraid of Aiden McGeady, not Robbie Keane," said Middlesbrough striker Tarmo Kink ahead of the first leg at the A Le Coq Arena.

"McGeady is the big danger to Estonia at this moment in time. For me, he is the main man in Ireland's attacking system and style. We will respect Keane and Damien Duff but we will be afraid of McGeady."

Football fever is growing in Estonia ahead of the biggest game in their history, but Kink was cool as a cucumber yesterday. "We are talking history here with this game, but I am not over-reacting," said Kink. "I know what is at stake on Friday and in Dublin next Tuesday, but I am calm -- for now anyway.

"This game has caught the public's imagination. Everybody here loves football now and that is nice, but this is a big game for Ireland as well as for Estonia.

"We realise that. We must also accept how difficult it is going to be to qualify against Ireland."

One man who knows exactly what this game means for his national team is the Estonian goalkeeping coach Mart Poom, once Mick McCarthy's No 1 at Sunderland. "I would love to be playing, but my job now is to prepare my goalkeepers to stop Ireland from scoring," said Poom yesterday.

"This is the game that every Estonian footballer wants to play in and be a part of. My challenge now is to ensure we don't concede any goals in the biggest game our country has ever played and that won't be easy against Ireland."

A survivor of the two previous meetings between the two countries, Poom knows what is at stake for both teams tomorrow.

"For us the game is more about excitement, because it is our first play-off, whereas for Ireland it is more about expectancy," he said.

"Because we have managed to get this far for the first time, everyone in Estonia outside of the team now expects us to go all the way, but I tell them that would be real fairytale stuff.

"It is two games and in a play-off anything can happen."

Estonian coach Tarmo Ruutli will name his team at lunchtime today. Kink is certain to keep Red Bulls forward Joel Lindpere out of the side after his return following a two-year international exile.

Irish Independent

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