Aiden McGeady was the hero as the Republic of Ireland launched their Euro 2106 qualifying campaign with a dramatic victory in Georgia.
The Everton winger struck twice, the second of them in the 90th minute, to clinch a 2-1 win at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi and earn the plaudits of both the manager Martin O’Neill and captain Robbie Keane.
O’Neill said: “He was the only player on the field that was scoring the goal. He really is a fantastic talent and showed that tonight.”
Long-time team-mate Keane was equally effusive after seeing McGeady, who had opened the scoring after 23 minutes, snatch the points at the death after turning on the edge of the penalty area and curling a delicious shot past substitute keeper Roin Kvashvadze.
Keane said: “If you score a goal like that, you deserve to win the game. If anyone else did that, the top players in the world, you would be talking about it for a long time. The turn, the touch, the finish – only he could do that. No-one else on that field would have been able to do that.”
McGeady, who played under O’Neill during his time as Celtic manager, had scored only three goals in his previous 69 appearances for his country. His double yesterday was in his manager’s first competitive game – and McGeady also scored in the 62-year-old’s first friendly against Latvia in November last year.
McGeady was applauded back into the away dressing room after the final whistle, and admitted he did not know what to do with himself.
He said: “I’d been doing a few interviews outside while the manager was talking to the team about the game. I was a bit awkward when it happened, I didn’t know how to react really. It was nice.”
McGeady’s 24th-minute strike gave Ireland an early advantage which was cancelled out in spectacular style by Tornike Okriashvili seven minutes before half-time.
For Georgia manager and former Newcastle midfielder Temuri Ketsbaia, a sixth successive defeat by Ireland proved hard to accept.
He said: “Ireland’s second goal was the only moment of quality in the second half. Perhaps a draw would have been a fair result.”Reuse content