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McGeady double seals victory in Ireland's Euro 2016 qualifying opener

Martin O’Neill’s men came away from Tbilisi with three points thanks to the Everton winger’s brace.

Soccer - UEFA Euro 2016 - Qualifying - Group D - Georgia v Republic of Ireland - Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena Aiden McGeady celebrates scoring. Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Georgia 1-2 Ireland 

IRELAND KICKED OFF their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a 2-1 win over Georgia thanks to Aiden McGeady’s double at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena this evening.

The Everton winger opened the scoring on 24 minutes but Tornike Okriashvili’s drive seven minutes before half-time levelled the terms before the Boys in Green pulled out a 90th-minute smash-and-grab winner in Tbilisi.

The big surprise in Martin O’Neill’s first competitive team selection was the inclusion of Stephen Quinn as part of a three-man midfielder alongside Glenn Whelan and James McCarthy. The Hull City man, earning his ninth senior cap, impressed in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Oman got the nod ahead of Wes Hoolahan.

Aiden McGeady and Jon Walters were named on the wings while Ireland’s record caps holder Robbie Keane started as a lone striker. Meanwhile, David Forde retained his place in goal despite Shay Given’s return to the international set-up last week.

The opening 20 minutes saw neither team create any chances of note with Ireland failing to make use of the ball when in possession.  Georgia goalkeeper Giorgi Loria nearly got himself in trouble after coming out of his box to claim a long ball down field but recovered just in time to clear with Keane hunting him down.

Wilson’s mistake allowed Nikoloz Gelashvili to flash a shot just wide of the post but, on 24 minutes, Ireland found an opener.

A Forde kick-out was flicked on by Walters and Keane for McCarthy, who broke through the middle and laid off to McGeady. The Everton winger coolly slotted past Loria for his fourth international goal.

That lead lasted 14 minutes, however, as Georgia drew level with a wonderful strike from Tornike Okriashvili. The Genk midfielder picked up possession 30 yards out, wriggled away from two defender and let fly with a superb effort which left Forde rooted to the spot.

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On the stroke of half-time, Georgia lost their goalkeeper to injury as Loria clashed with Quinn while contesting Walters’ cross and was replaced by twice-capped Roin Kvaskhvadze after the restart.

Aiden McGeady celebrates scoring the first goal of the game The Irish players congratulate McGeady. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Georgia began the second half as they finished the first and continued to grow in confidence — it took several defenders to stop Okriashvili’s mazy run while Forde had to get down smartly to collect Jano Ananidze’s dangerous cross minutes later.

Ireland really struggled to produce any flowing football and were restricted to a couple of half-chances. On one of the rare occasions Seamus Coleman did get forward, his inch-perfect cross had to be taken off the head of Walters while McGeady curled a free-kick wide and Keane fluffed his lines when a ball fell to him at the back post.

With 15 minutes remaining, McGeady flashed a shot just over the bar before O’Neill made a double substitution. On came Shane Long and Robbie Brady with Keane and Quinn making way.

With the game petering out and a draw looking increasingly likely, McGeady popped up with a moment of brilliance to seal three points. He made a yard of space for himself with quick footwork and rifled the ball into the back of the net from the edge of the box.

Group D favourites Germany host Scotland while Gibraltar make their UEFA debut at home to Poland tonight (both 7.45pm kick-offs).

Next up for Ireland is Gibraltar’s visit to Dublin on 11 October before the trip to Gelsenkirchen three days later.

Georgia: Loria (Kvaskhvadze 46′), Lobjanidze, Kverkvellas, Kashia, Khubutia, Kankava, Daushvili, Anaidze (Targamadze 63′), Okriashvili (Mchedlidze 88′), Kvirkvelia.

Booked: Khubutia, Kvirkvelia, Daushvili.

Ireland: Forde, Coleman, O’Shea, Wilson, Ward, Walters, McCarthy (Meyler 91′), Whelan, Quinn (Brady 75′), McGeady, Keane (Long 75′).

Booked: Walters.

As it happened: Ireland v Georgia, Euro 2016 qualifier

This stunning strike cancelled out Aiden McGeady’s opener against Georgia

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Ben Blake

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