Tuesday 19 June 2018

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Martin O'Neill believes Ireland must retain possession in sweltering Tbilisi

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill

John Brennan

Martin O'Neill is not worried that his players will expire in a Tbilisi steambath tomorrow night.

The temperature hit 37C in the Georgian capital this afternoon. And while is it forecast to fall to 25C by the 8pm kick-off tomorrow night (5pm Irish time), it will still be very warm for an Irish side that would prefer a cool Autumn evening, with maybe a drop of rain.

"Our Georgian hosts have told us that it has been a long, hot summer in Tbilisi," said the Irish manager, "so I don't imagine the temperatures will be cooling down just for us. We'll have to deal with it, but it will be hot. We'll have to try and keep the ball a bit, that might be the way forward."

O'Neill insisted that Ireland's excellent record against Georgia, eight wins out of eight whether competitive or friendly, would count for nothing.

"It's not going to be easy at all, yes we do have eight wins out of eight against Georgia, but it has no bearing on tomorrow.

"Georgia could easily have beaten Serbia here, they played well against Wales in Wales and very well against us in the first half in Dublin. This is going to be a very difficult game for us. They are a good side with good players, they are very technically adept. Yet I hope that we can make it a very difficult game for Georgia too."

He revealed that Jon Walters is fully fit for the game. "I'm very pleased that Jon is available for us. the injury looked bad last week, but he has fought it off. He has been so important to us in the last few years and I'm delighted that Jon has a chance of playing tomorrow."

James McClean has scored three times in the group, all away from Dublin, and he wants another one tomorrow. "Yes, I want to add to three away goals, I hit the bar against Georgia in Dublin last year - but I have to get picked first."

McClean has fast become a fixture in the Irish team, so that will hardly be a problem, and the Derryman's eyes are on a bigger prize. "There's four games to go in the group and we're in a healthy position but we wont look past Georgia tomorrow night. Every game we've played against Georgia has been tough. We're expecting the same again."

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