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'I never lost faith in him. He’s a great talent and it may take something like that for us tomorrow night'

On the three-year anniversary of his match-winning performance against Ireland’s latest opponents, Martin O’Neill has been talking up Aiden McGeady.

McGeady training with Callum O'Dowda.
McGeady training with Callum O'Dowda.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Ben Blake reports from the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi 

THIS WEEK MARKS three years since Aiden McGeady produced his finest moment in a green jersey.

The winger, earmarked as a special talent since his teens after a number of eye-catching displays for Celtic, has often flattered to deceive over the years and his lack of consistency continues to frustrate Ireland fans.

Back in September 2014, Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane were embarking on their first competitive game in charge of the Boys in Green.

Just like it will tomorrow night, the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena hosted the Euro 2016 qualifier against Georgia and the Glasgow-born wide man bagged two goals to clinch a smash-and-grab win for the visitors.

His second — a beautifully-taken individual effort as the clock struck 90 minutes — lives long in the memory and ultimately played a part in helping Ireland clinch qualification for last summer’s European championships.

Having lost his way at Everton, McGeady rediscovered his club form on loan at Preston North End last season and he has looked sharp since linked up with manager Simon Grayson at Sunderland this summer.

Now just 10 caps off a century for Ireland, the 31-year-old is back in Tbilisi and old mentor O’Neill suggested he may have something to offer in tomorrow’s World Cup qualifying Group D encounter.

“Aiden’s in pretty good form and decent shape,” said O’Neill. “I remember that distinctly when he came here [in 2014], he was as fit as I’d seen him in quite some time.

His wife just had a baby too so things are good for him in his own personal life and, on field, Sunderland are pretty happy with him.

“Simon Grayson is a top manager and he believes in him. I never lost faith in him in that sense, he’s a great talent and it may take something like that for us tomorrow night.”

Source: Luca Fiorino/YouTube

McGeady will most likely to be competing with James McClean, Robbie Brady and Daryl Horgan for a starting berth in the wide positions, meaning he may have to settle for a cameo role off the bench.

Asked if he can take extra confidence from his previous performances against Ireland’s latest opponents, O’Neill added:

“I’m really talking more about club level as you play clubs more often, but some players seem to have favourite clubs that they play well against.

“If you’re going to talk about Aiden playing well against Georgia, I think his performance here was really excellent and I’m sure that will give him confidence and a feeling that he can do it again.”

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Ben Blake

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