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'We needed him back' - John Aldridge points to Shane Duffy's set-piece ability as vital for Ireland's Euro hopes

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10 October 2019; Shane Duffy and Aaron Connolly, right, arrive for a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

10 October 2019; Shane Duffy and Aaron Connolly, right, arrive for a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

10 October 2019; Shane Duffy and Aaron Connolly, right, arrive for a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

John Aldridge believes Ireland need to target more than a solitary point when they take on Georgia in the crucial Euro 2020 qualifier in Tbilisi on Saturday.

Mick McCarthy's men head into a crucial weekend of fixtures sitting top of Group D after an unbeaten start to their qualifying campaign, but former Ireland striker Aldridge suggests the moment has come to seize the moment and take a positive stride towards qualification.

"This is the crunch time in the group now and if we could get a win in Georgia, it really would shake things up," Aldridge told Independent.ie. "Ireland often viewed a point from away game as a good result, but with Denmark and Switzerland playing each other on Saturday, we have a chance to go clear at the top of the group.

"Our last two qualifiers are against the Swiss and Danes, so what was always going to be a tough away game in Georgia now has massive significance after Mick and the lads have given us a great platform in this group.

"Ireland's problem for a long time now has been scoring goals and it means we go into these games looking to make the most of the half-chances we create or hoping to score a goal or two from set-pieces.

"The key has to be keeping a clean sheet and trying to nick something at the other end. It might not be pretty, but we don't have world-class players all over the team at the moment, so the manager needs to make the most of what he's got.

"Mick has done a great job of reviving a team that had lost its way badly a year ago and now comes the final push to see if we can qualify for the Euros."

Aldridge believes the availability of centre-back Shane Duffy could be a decisive twist in Ireland's qualifying story, after the Brighton defender recovered quicker than expected from injury to take his place on the plane to Georgia.

"Duffy has become a massive player for Ireland and after what happened with Richard Keogh, we needed him back for these two qualifiers," adds Aldridge.

"He has proved himself to be a good performer in the Premier League and you would hope that an Ireland back four that should also feature John Egan, Seamus Coleman and Matt Doherty would have enough about them to keep things tight at the back.

"Duffy has also become a vital player at the other end of the pitch, as he is a real threat when we get corners and set-pieces around the box with his power in the air.

"Georgia are a decent side and they proved that with their performance against Ireland in Dublin and by drawing against Denmark a few weeks back, so we know this is a tough away game, but it is one we have to try and win."

Online Editors