Bandon ace Hourihane curls home a brilliant free as Ireland defeat Georgia

Bandon ace Hourihane curls home a brilliant free as Ireland defeat Georgia
Conor Hourihane hit the winning goal from a free. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Republic Of Ireland 1 Georgia 0 

A wonderful free by Corkman Conor Hourihane set the Republic Of Ireland on their way to victory over Georgia at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night in this Euro 2020 qualifying clash.

Although he has scored goals like that at club level with Aston Villa and before that Barnsley, it was a fine way for Bandon native Hourihane to open his senior international scoring account.

Conor Hourihane curls in a terrific free to open the scoring for Ireland against Georgia at the Aviva. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Conor Hourihane curls in a terrific free to open the scoring for Ireland against Georgia at the Aviva. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

In what was Mick McCarthy’s first competitive home game in his second stint as Ireland manager, this was a display of real conviction on the ball and will offer encouragement heading into the remaining qualifiers later in the year.

It was a welcome change to see Ireland knocking the ball around well at times and with a purpose. This was like a team transformed from that drew 0-0 in the last senior international game here last November, the friendly with Northern Ireland.

From the victory in Gibraltar last Saturday, Ireland made two changes. Glenn Whelan and Robbie Brady came in for Seani Maguire and Matt Doherty.

Georgia already have a playoff place secured as a consequence of their campaign by topping their League D group in the recent UEFA Nations League.

Vladimir Weiss’s men lost in the opening game of their Euro 2020 group at the weekend at home against Switzerland, though it took the Swiss the bones of an hour to open the scoring. So that maybe was a sign that here in Dublin that Ireland heads remain patient prior to the action getting underway.

Unlike more recent times, there seemed to be a clear game plan and a structure to what the Irish players were doing.

It was Ireland that seeked to take the game to their visitors early on and they did begin very brightly. Bandon native Hourihane had a decent opportunity to open the scoring on 10 minutes, but Georgia keeper Giorgi Loria was able to make the save.

Moments later Sheffield United attacker David McGoldrick also went close with a low effort from outside the box.

Play was briefly held up when tennis balls reigned down in the Aviva Stadium pitch, as a section of supporters showed their displeasure with John Delaney and the FAI.

When the action got back underway, it did so in some style. A sublimely taken free kick by Hourihane gave Ireland a deserved lead.

As good as the opening half was from Ireland, Georgia did provide a warning sign that they still posed very much a danger, with Darren Randolph making a fine stop to deny a well-struck effort by Valerian Gvilla.

Ireland though went in at the break with the advantage, following what was very slick and very efficient first-half display.

After the break, Jeff Hendrick had the ball in the net after some great Irish build play, but it was ruled out for offside.

While McGoldrick also went close on the hour mark when he broke at pace, but fired over the bar from outside the box.

On the 70th minute mark, McGoldrick went close again when his shot was blocked at the vital moment by Guram Kashia.

Georgia continued to also pose a threat on occasions and they provide a few nervy moments for their hosts. Otar Kiteishvili blazed wide from a good position on the edge of the box.

While there were hearts in Irish mouths late on, as Jaba Kankava saw his effort rattle the post.

The Irish tempo rarely dropped, as Enda Stevens fired wide from inside the penalty area from an angle, after a charging run forward.

All in all it was a very satisfactory display from Ireland and one which gave a sense that a corner may be turned for the Irish senior side under McCarthy’s reign.

The Ireland squad will next reassemble in June for another double-header of qualifying games. There is what looks like a tricky away game to face Denmark on June 7, before the Boys In Green entertain Gibraltar at the Aviva on June, 10.

Based on this satisfactory performance, McCarthy and his players should go into those games with a renewed sense of confidence.

26 March 2019; Conor Hourihane of Republic of Ireland celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the UEFA EURO2020 Group D qualifying match between Republic of Ireland and Georgia at the Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
26 March 2019; Conor Hourihane of Republic of Ireland celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the UEFA EURO2020 Group D qualifying match between Republic of Ireland and Georgia at the Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

IRELAND: Darren Randolph; Seamus Coleman, Shane Duffy, Richard Keogh, Enda Stevens; Conor Hourihane, Glenn Whelan: Jeff Hendrick, Robbie Brady, James McClean; David McGoldrick.

Subs: Aiden O’Brien for Brady (73), Matt Doherty for McGoldrick (81).

GEORGIA: Giorgi Loria; Otar Kakabadze, Davit Khocholava, Soloman Kverkvelia, Guram Kashia; Otar Kiteishvili, Nika Kvekveskiri, Jaba Kankava, Valerian Gvilia, Vato Arveladze; Giorgi Kvilitaia.

Subs: Levan Kharabadze for Khocholava (64), Valeri Qazaishvili for Arveladze (72), Tornike Okriashvili for Kakabadze (84).

Referee: Serdar Gözübüyük (Netherlands).

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