A fresh approach reaps dividends
Mick McCarthy’s first home international since returning as Irish manager delivered the confident, attacking and aggressive performance the 60-year-old craved.
It is only two games into McCarthy’s second tenure but the blueprint of a more positive and effective approach is becoming evident.
Pressing higher up the pitch and utilising lone striker’s David McGoldrick’s ability to link up with Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick and James McClean, Ireland were able to move the ball with a purpose that was absent in the final year of Martin O’Neill’s tenure.
Granted, a second consecutive qualifying victory was not without fault. The next step is to sustain Ireland’s cohesive approach and concentration levels for a full 90 minutes rather than in patches against Georgia.
On the plus side, Mick McCarthy and the Republic of Ireland head to Copenhagen in confident mood next June.
The boy Hourihane
Bandon’s Conor Hourihane followed up his impressive display against Gibraltar with another influential showing at the Aviva.
The Aston Villa playmaker’s free-kick to edge Ireland in front was a moment of pure quality but Hourihane’s range of passing, set-piece delivery and ability to close down opposing midfielders were equally important to Ireland’s success.
Adding a goal to his already impressive repertoire has elevated the 28-year-old’s status as the Republic’s first-choice midfielder.
Goals remain a problem
It seems churlish to criticise David McGoldrick’s performance but the Sheffield United forward’s goal drought should be cause for concern.
A willing runner and selfless worker, McGoldrick has a major role to play under Mick McCarthy. Yet, zero return from McGoldrick, Sean Maguire and Aiden O’Brien against Gibraltarian and Georgian defences means Ireland’s over reliance on their midfielders to score goals looks set to continue.
Switzerland and Denmark will be a step up in class compared to Ireland’s previous opponents, heightening the necessity to unearth a regular goal-scoring striker.
Ireland’s unsung heroes
There were plenty of raised eyebrows when news of Glenn Whelan’s inclusion in Mick McCarthy’s starting eleven broke shortly. Yet the experienced international’s steady performance permitted Jeff Hendrick and Conor Hourihane to get forward whilst also protecting his back four.
Along with Whelan, Darren Randolph reiterated his importance to the Irish setup with another assured display. The Middlesbrough goalkeeper pulled off a terrific save to deny Valeriane Gvilia just before half time and consecutive clean sheets are a deserved reward for Randolph’s recent form.