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Five things we learned from Ireland's opening night victory in Georgia


Ireland captain Robbie Keane was left with the thankless task of chasing lost causes against Georgia in Tiblisi. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Ireland captain Robbie Keane was left with the thankless task of chasing lost causes against Georgia in Tiblisi. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Ireland captain Robbie Keane was left with the thankless task of chasing lost causes against Georgia in Tiblisi. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

1. McGeady is a main man: It's predictable to pick out the hero because of his brace but Martin O'Neill's post-match comments were interesting.

He explained that Stephen Quinn was partly selected as a third midfielder because he could help Stephen Ward at left full if McGeady switched off in his defensive duties.

"I just thought he'd give us that bit of balance, knowing that Stephen Ward hadn't played that much football," O'Neill explained.

"Aiden might let players go past him once or twice and it gave us that little bit of balance."

In the past, McGeady's failings in his own side's half have been highlighted but it seems that O'Neill is prepared to cover for the odd lapse by simply making it less of a responsibility for the Everton man.

Certainly, there's a clear logic as he was Ireland's most dangerous player and able to drift inside to good effect, as evidenced with his stunning winner. Rather than slotting into a system, the 28-year-old may find a team is set up to his strengths

2. Keane issue will not go away

Sunday was a tough experience for the skipper. In fact, as Georgia crawled into a shell for the final quarter and dropped deep to secure a point, it sprung to mind that the circumstances of the game at that point were more suited to Keane than the state of play during his time on the pitch.

He was a touch isolated in his lone striking berth at times and one has to wonder if he will start in Germany next month if, as seems likely, O'Neill goes with a 4-5-1 again.

Scotland gave the Germans some difficulties on Sunday by attacking at pace and it's hard to see how that philosophy would suit Keane. It's a difficult situation because he is the leader of the group and, ultimately, is still the man best placed to take chances that come his way.

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But in Tbilisi he was unable to effectively get into positions and was, on occasion, left with the thankless task of chasing lost causes. That's never been his game.

3. Left side of defence remains a concern

Ward seems to be the preference of this regime although it's unclear if that is borne from a high regard for the Burnley defender or a belief that Marc Wilson is simply the best option as John O'Shea's centre-half partner.

Wilson was guilty of one or two sloppy moments in Tbilisi and it's too early to claim that the centre-half duo are the ideal fit.

To be fair to Ward, he was frozen out at Wolves in the summer so came into this week a bit undercooked after just one League Cup display for his new club. However, with a player inside with a tendency to roam, space in behind the Portmarnock lad is an avenue that opponents are likely to pursue.

Georgia were by no means the most ambitious side in the world so Germany will really test this selection.

The injury-prone Joey O'Brien was the only other genuine left-back option named in the original squad but he was lined up for a right-back showing before being forced to pull out of the Oman warm-up

4. Hoolahan could be Dublin-only

Fifteen minutes after the full-time whistle, a group of unused Irish subs went through their paces on the pitch. Considering the outfield players only learned the team in the hours before kick-off, it's safe to assume that Wes Hoolahan did not envisage being in that contingent.

This was the first match of the O'Neill era that the 32-year-old played no part in whatsoever. The Derryman may well be the type of Ireland manager who goes with a specific strategy for away games and modifies it for home encounters.

Giovanni Trapattoni stuck with the same modus operandi which made Ireland hard to break down on the road but laboured when it came to seizing the initiative in Dublin.

O'Neill took a long look at Hoolahan in his preparation matches and has made a few comments hinting that he will be vital for matches where Ireland are on the front foot.

Away from home, though, it seems that the third midfielder will have a more defensive outlook.

5. O'Neill will make tough calls

The manager was true to his word in terms of the goalkeeping situation. He said there was no guarantees for Shay Given and has effectively made it clear to the veteran that if he wants back in he will have to play football regularly.

It might also have been populist to go with Hoolahan but he completely cast him to one side and played the Quinn card.

Shane Long was also indirectly told that he must do more to be trusted at this level. He has paid the price for some sloppy finishing in O'Neill's tenure and remains in the purgatorial existence that has defined his international career.

He is still likely to play a big part in this campaign and, perhaps, this will galvanise him. But, similar to Given, he is assured of nothing. Withdrawing Keane first is a move that other bosses might have shied away from.

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