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Hoolahan impresses and more talking points from tonight's Gibraltar-Ireland clash

It was a one-sided affair tonight, but what did we learn ahead of Monday’s crucial fixture?

Robbie Keane claimed a brace tonight.
Robbie Keane claimed a brace tonight.
Image: Adam Davy

1. Christie proves an able deputy for Coleman

A MINOR KNOCK left Ireland without their best player in Seamus Coleman tonight.

Consequently, Cyrus Christie had a chance to make his competitive debut arguably in the most ideal circumstances imaginable.

The full-back has his doubters and perhaps rightly so — the 22-year-old Coventry-born defender has struggled to get into the Derby team of late.

Nevertheless, Christie handled his competitive debut well tonight, getting forward at will and scoring an excellently-taken goal to boot.

Granted, it seems unlikely that Coleman will be displaced from the right-back slot anytime soon given his current form, however with tonight’s performance, Christie has at least shown some promise at international level, thereby increasing the likelihood of Martin O’Neill relying on him in future if necessary.

2. Hoolahan emphasises his importance

Wes Hoolahan’s reputation seems to grow with every performance in this campaign.

The Norwich man again took much of the responsibility going forward tonight. Given that James McCarthy, Jeff Hendrick and Glenn Whelan provided a threat that was sporadic at best, Hoolahan again was required to be at his inventive best.

The 33-year-old always looked to make things happen, and contributed well on the night, providing an assist for the first goal and winning a penalty for the third.

Ireland invariably look a better team with the former Shelbourne star in the side, and so it would be a major surprise if he doesn’t stay in the starting XI for the visit of Georgia on Monday.

3. How similar a team will we see on Monday?

Following tonight’s routine win, the talk now turns to the clash with Georgia on Monday.

Suddenly, the Georgians have a chance to get back in the group after beating Scotland today, and will go to the Aviva Stadium with renewed confidence as a result.

The Irish side were made to work for a victory in the initial encounter between the sides in Tbilisi and it is expected to be a similarly taxing affair for Martin O’Neill’s men on Monday.

Ireland will consequently need to be at or near their best to get the desired three points, and it will be fascinating to see what team O’Neill selects to start this must-win game.

Seamus Coleman will almost certainly return if passed fit, but otherwise, don’t expect too many changes from tonight’s encounter.

The biggest question mark is arguably whether O’Neill sticks with striker Robbie Keane, who failed to start the last home match against Scotland.

With Ireland needing goals against what is likely to be a stubborn Georgian set-up, O’Neill will surely be tempted to once again turn to the country’s record goalscorer.

Ireland got the result they wanted in the Germany-Poland game tonight>

The Group D table is looking a whole lot better for Ireland tonight>

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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