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Georgia boss wary of in-form Ireland winger Aiden McGeady

Despite being left out in the cold at international level, the 32-year-old has impressed for Sunderland of late.

Ireland's Aiden McGeady celebrates scoring against Georgia in a Euro 2016 qualifier.
Ireland's Aiden McGeady celebrates scoring against Georgia in a Euro 2016 qualifier.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

- Paul Fennessy reports from the Convention Centre

GEORGIA BOSS VLADIMIR Weiss is expecting a difficult campaign in a group that also includes Ireland, Denmark, Switzerland and Gibraltar, while citing Aiden McGeady as a player capable of doing damage to his men.

The 32-year-old winger — currently Ireland’s seventh most-capped player ever — has been left out in the cold at international level recently.

After coming off the bench in the 5-1 thrashing against Denmark, which ended Ireland’s World Cup qualification hopes in November of last year, he was left out of subsequent squads under Martin O’Neill.

However, McGeady has been on an impressive run of form with Sunderland, scoring his sixth goal in seven games for the Black Cats on Saturday.

This improvement at club level, coupled with Mick McCarthy replacing O’Neill as manager last week, could pave the way for the Glasgow native’s return to the international set-up.

However, Georgia would be forgiven for hoping McCarthy decides to snub the in-form player. McGeady scored a memorable brace when the sides met in September 2014, handing O’Neill a win in his first competitive match in charge and helping Ireland qualify for Euro 2016 ultimately.

It is not totally inconceivable that McGeady could have a similar impact as McCarthy begins his reign. While not directly referencing the player, the new Irish boss said on Sunday that he would happily source players from “anywhere,” suggesting the winger’s status as a League One star would not necessarily count against him.

Weiss, meanwhile, was not in charge when McGeady inspired Ireland to a win in Tbilisi just over four years ago, having taken over the national side in 2016, but the former Spartak Moscow and Everton attacker is a player he knows well regardless.

“I’ve known him a lot of years, because he played in Celtic against my son [also named Vladimir Weiss] in his time at Rangers [during the 2010-11 campaign].

He’s a fantastic player, he has fantastic skills, he’s scored a lot of goals, he’s a lovely player in the team. I don’t know whether he’ll play or not [in the Euro qualifiers], but he’s a fantastic player.”

Georgia are certainly a side Ireland won’t be taking for granted. In the four times the teams met competitively in the Martin O’Neill era, there were three narrow Ireland victories and one draw. On each occasion, it could be argued that the Georgians deserved a better result.

The last time the sides faced off in September 2017 in Tbilisi, it ended 1-1, with Georgia enjoying 74% possession.

There has been evidence of improvement within their ranks of late as well. They comfortably topped their Nations League D group, winning five and drawing one of their six games, ahead of Kazakhstan, Latvia and Andorra.

“It’s not an easy group,” Weiss added of today’s Euro 2020 draw. “We are trying to improve step by step. We’re playing better and better. 

“Again, we play Ireland and for me, it’s good, because we know the Ireland team. I like playing against them. But the favourite in the group, of course, is Switzerland and Denmark — they have a lot of good players that play in England in a good league.

“But we’ll try to make a success of the results and we hope — we are stronger in Tbilisi, but we’ll try to do something also away in Dublin, Denmark or Switzerland.

“The group is open. We try to be a success, we’ll play with heart before our fantastic spectacle in Tbilisi — every game is 55,000 [spectators] now. The people love football and the Georgian national team, but we will see — we’ll try to [qualify].”

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Paul Fennessy

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