What becomes pattern doesn’t have to be mundane, and we’ve graduated from certain 0-0 draws to expected 1-0 wins.
For the first time in a long time, Ireland were watchable. Their midfield three are very compact, but they have prescribed jobs, compared to the aimless wondering they did under Martin O’Neill.
It may have only been Georgia, but more importantly, we should remember that we’re only Ireland, and if we can put together progressive passages of football, then that’s half the battle.
While the collective was promising, we have to ask which individuals stood out? We decided to run the rule over the starting XI, as the substitutes didn’t have enough time to have much of an influence.
Darren Randolph – 7
Generally wasn’t troubled for the majority of the opening half, but did have a big save to make just before the referee blew for the interval, before a couple of testing shots were dealt with in the second half.
Seamus Coleman – 6
His runs are better-timed now under McCarthy. He doesn’t seem afraid to bomb forward, which will be a huge asset if he’s to retain his place in the XI.
Shane Duffy – 7
Very cleverly shifted the wall for the opening goal, which is basically an assist. The walls of Derry are clearly made of stronger stuff than those in Tbilisi.
Richard Keogh – 6
Not sure he lost a header all night, but looked slightly uncomfortable with some of the clever movement off the ball that the Georgians exhibited in the first half.
Enda Stevens – 6
His link-up with McClean was somewhat lacking, but I’d put that down to the latter rather than the Sheffield United standout.
Robbie Brady – 6
Probably too quiet for his own liking, but the emphasis was on Coleman’s overlaps, with him cutting in. Tidy.
Jeff Hendrick – 8
Won’t get the credit his two midfield partners will, but he was every bit as effective. Ireland actually have a structure in midfield now and Hendrick is tasked with the dirty work. He was the best player on the park.
Conor Hourihane – 8
The goal aside, he shaped like he was a ten, even though he didn’t play there. The Cork native was very much the one who tried to find the killer pass and that’s something needed now in Wes Hoolahan’s absence.
Glenn Whelan – 7
Whelan in the years indeed. He was calm, although some of the hyperbole surrounding his performance is weird. A solid showing and justifies his recall.
James McClean – 5
Headless, and he needs to make way in future squads. Apart from all the ‘passion’ he has, he really hasn’t produced since Cardiff and you could make an argument that even Aiden McGeady is a better option now.
David McGoldrick – 7
Did what we expect of Shane Long, but very rarely see. His energy up front was refreshing and some of his touches were sublime. Deserved a goal for his effort alone.
Mick McCarthy – 7
The patterns of play were evident, and while we can’t get too excited about that going forward, at least there actually was a plan. On a night that was about ringing in a new era in Irish football, McCarthy’s application was a change from the old – and that’s what was required. Given his troops’ energy levels, it’s clear they’re keen to impress, too.