Steven Reid put two years of injury misery behind him to remind the Republic of Ireland just what they had been missing on Saturday. The 26-year-old Blackburn midfielder anchored Giovanni Trapattoni's side as they launched their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 2-1 victory over Georgia in Mainz and, in the process, confirmed his long-awaited return to fitness.
Reid, whose last appearance for his country before the recent friendly in Norway had come against Germany almost two years earlier, turned in an assured display alongside Glenn Whelan in a dual midfield holding role as Trapattoni's masterplan paid dividends. Having spent so long watching Ireland's games from afar, he was thrilled to be back. "I'm delighted," Reid said. "To be out of the squad so long, I am delighted to be back. It's a pretty new role and I am seeing plenty of the ball. I am enjoying playing alongside Glenn."
Reid's blossoming partnership with Whelan has been perhaps the biggest change made by Trapattoni, who has resisted the temptation to throw Sunderland's Andy Reid into the mix.
Stoke's midfielder Whelan, an ever present since the Italian took over, marked his fourth cap on Saturday with his first senior international goal. His contribution – his 70th-minute strike put Ireland two up after Kevin Doyle had headed home a 13th-minute Aiden McGeady cross – came after he spent his club's last two league games on the bench. Reid said: "It's surprising he has not played the last couple of games at club level. He is great technically and I have been really impressed with him in the last couple of games."
Goals: Doyle (13) 0-1; Whelan (70) 0-2; Kenia (90) 1-2.
Georgia : Loria, Lobjanidze, Kaladze, Shashiashvili, Kenia, Aleksidze, Iashvili, Kobiashvili, Khizanishvili, Odikadze, Menteshashvili. Substitutes used: Siradze for Aleksidze, 62; Mchedildze for Iashvili, 78; Asatiani for Khizanishvili, 83.
Republic of Ireland: Given (Newcastle), Finnan (Espanyol), Kilbane (Wigan Athletic), O'Shea (Manchester United), Dunne (Manchester City), Whelan (Stoke City), McGeady (Celtic), Reid (Blackburn Rovers), Doyle (Reading), Keane (Liverpool), Hunt (Reading). Substitutes used: Miller (Sunderland) for Doyle, 77; McShane (Sunderland) for Finnan, 80; Keogh (Wolves) for McGeady, 87.
Referee: Z Szabo (Hungary).
Booked: Georgia Khizanishvili, Aleksidze.