There is a feel-good factor around Irish football now arguably not seen since Mick McCarthy’s last spell in charge of the national team.
There are a number of reasons for this and not just because we’ve given ourselves a decent chance of qualifying automatically for the Euros from a tricky group. For the first time in many a year, we have a promising U21 team with a sell-out crowd of over 7,000 people attending Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Italy in Tallaght. Compare that with an attendance of 123 against Iceland 19 months earlier.
Troy Parrott, Aaron Connolly, Ryan Manning and others offer real hope for the future and the present. The success of the U21s as well has paved the way for a relatively smooth transition from McCarthy to Stephen Kenny.
Then John Delaney’s long overdue departure from the FAI is the icing on the cake and the cherry on top.
However, despite the feel-good vibes around the team, injuries and suspensions have made this crucial qualifier even more difficult.
Enda Stevens misses out with suspension, Richard Keogh’s off-field troubles have been well chronicled, talisman David McGoldrick is absent with a groin issue and if Shane Duffy plays, it’s unlikely he will be close to 100 per cent fit.
McGoldrick is the biggest loss of the three absentees by far, after all he’s been Ireland’s outstanding player of this campaign. His hold-up and combination play with his Sheffield Utd teammate Callum Robinson have given our attack a potency that has been lacking for some time.
James Collins of Luton Town is his likely replacement and he’s been in decent form in the Championship but is likely to be a downgrade from McGoldrick. Or could we see Mick take the bold step of starting young Aaron Connolly after his heroics for Brighton in the Premier League last weekend?
Let’s get to the bets!
Half Time Correct Score 0-0 – 6/5
Georgia are no better than decent opposition, but their strength is in defence with a pair of competent centre-halves from Lokomotiv Moscow and Shakhtar Donetsk.
They held Denmark to a 0-0 draw last month and a tight game should be expected here.
The 6/5 appeals with Ireland unlikely to really push for the win until at least the last half hour.
Georgia Draw No Bet – 5/4
I really hope I’m wrong here, but I feel Ireland’s price is too short given the absentees.
I’d be concerned that Ireland have struggled in midfield against both the Swiss and Denmark and don’t have much faith in our ability to break down Georgia.
Also, if The Boys In Green really go for the win in the last 20 minutes, it could leave them vulnerable to counter attacks.
Shane Duffy to score anytime – 7/1
Anyone who has seen Ireland over the years knows the threat Duffy poses at set-pieces and if they are to break the deadlock on Saturday, there’s a fair chance it comes from the Derry man.
7/1 is a very backable price and he’s sure to give punters a run for their money.
* All odds correct at time of posting.