Strange atmosphere at the Aviva and more talking points from Ireland-Georgia

We look at the big issues from this evening’s Euro 2016 qualifier.

Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

1. Eerie atmosphere at the Aviva

JUST 27,100 PEOPLE turned out according to the official attendance figures for tonight’s Ireland-Georgia game.

And on the evidence of the first-half, it appeared those who stayed away made a wise decision.

Amid an almost eerily quiet first-half atmosphere at the Aviva, Ireland struggled to create a chance of note against an ordinary enough Georgia side.

The second half was better on both fronts, however, with the Irish team finally playing with a bit of tempo and the crowd responding passionately in turn.

The style of football remains less than enthralling for the most part, but with third place at least now a realistic prospect, you would expect a much greater attendance when world champions Germany come to Dublin in October.

2. Substitution key for O’Neill

The situation was looking dire for Ireland at half-time.

The Boys in Green had spent 45 minutes huffing and puffing but barely tested the Georgian goalkeeper at all.

Robbie Keane had another quiet game and was replaced by Shane Long at the break.

The difference was noticeable thereafter — Long brought pace and physicality to the Irish attack that was previously lacking, and suddenly a bit of intensity entered into Ireland’s play.

James McClean also brought some dynamism to the game when introduced, and the Irish side were much livelier as a consequence after the break.

3. Creativity still a concern for Ireland

The Boys in Green got the job done in the end, but even Martin O’Neill admitted after the game that the tentativeness and lack of creativity in the first half was worrying.

With three defensive midfielders, a forward line that conspicuously lacked pace and Wes Hoolahan being tightly marked, the hosts barely threatened the visitors’ goal in the first half.

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The second half was a different story to an extent, however. There was a greater tempo to the Irish side’s play and the midfielders looked to be trying harder to make an impact in the final third.

James McCarthy got forward with increasing regularity while Jeff Hendrick played a key role in setting up Jon Walters’ all-important goal.

Yet it was work-rate and pressure, for the most part, rather than any great finesse that ultimately was good enough to break the Georgians down.

If an unlikely victory is to be secured against either Germany or Poland on the other hand, Ireland will surely need to improve substantially in the final third.

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