Republic of Ireland 1-0 Georgia: Conor Hourihane fires ace amid tennis ball protests
Winning return in Dublin for Mick McCarthy, whose team go top of Group D
Last Updated: 27/03/19 9:32am
Conor Hourihane struck a sublime free-kick to notch a 1-0 win for Republic of Ireland over Georgia, just seconds after a tennis ball protest by the home fans.
Some Republic of Ireland fans disrupted their side's European Qualifier by throwing tennis balls on to the pitch in protest of the FAI's decision to create a new role for John Delaney, but it didn't deter their team as Hourihane scored the winning goal (36).
It marked a positive homecoming for returning boss Mick McCarthy, who has overseen two wins in a week to leave them top of Group D.
Why the protest?
The fans decided to stage the incident in protest of the FAI's decision to create a new role for John Delaney after he stepped down as chief executive.
Without the safety net of a play-off place to fall back on following a poor Nations League campaign, the Republic know they must secure a top-two finish to feature at Euro 2020. Tougher tests against Denmark and Switzerland lie ahead but McCarthy will be delighted with what he's seen so far in his second spell as boss.
Republic of Ireland: Randolph (7), Coleman (7), Keogh (7), Duffy (7), Stevens (7), Hendrick (7), Whelan (7), Hourihane (8), McClean (7), McGoldrick (8), Brady (7)
Subs: O’Brien (6), Doherty (N/A)
Georgia: Loria (6), Kakabadze (6), Khocholava (6), Kashia (6), Kverkvelia (6), Kvekveskiri (6), Kankava (7), Kiteishvili (6), Kvilitaia (6), Arveladze (6), Gvilia (6)
Subs: Kharabadze (6), Okriashvili (N/A), Kazaishvili (N/A)
Man of the match: David McGoldrick
Republic of Ireland, who scraped their way to a 1-0 win over Group D minnows Gibraltar on Saturday evening, started with David McGoldrick as the lone striker and he was pivotal as the hosts played at a positive tempo.
McGoldrick sent a dipping volley just wide on 18 minutes but the opener wasn't far away.
Dozens of tennis balls were hurled on to the pitch from the stands as Hourihane lined up a free-kick from 25 yards and after a delay of about three minutes, the Aston Villa man bent his shot around Shane Duffy - who was making a nuisance of himself in the wall - and into the corner of the net.
Darren Randolph had little to do but had to be alert to claw clear a Valerian Gvilia effort just before the break.
The Republic continued to threaten but Jeff Hendrick had a goal chalked off for offside after straying beyond the last man to turn home an Enda Stevens cross.
Jaba Kankava hit the post five minutes from time as McCarthy's side sank deeper but the visitors never really looked confident of drawing level.
Man of the match: David McGoldrick
Former Republic of Ireland international Jon Walters was watching from the Sky Sports studio and was impressed with what he saw from Ireland's long striker.
He said: "It's a very difficult position to play. You've got to hold it up, spin it behind and link the play. He worked himself into the ground - all that was missing was his goal. He played ever so well - if he plays at that level in this campaign it'd be a big boost for Ireland."
Pundit view: Phil Babb
"Mick McCarthy has to take all the plaudits. You have to tip your cap to him. To take over the mantle after a poor 18 months and put on a performance like that is impressive."
"We've played really well tonight. We could have scored two or three. We negated their style of play and the lads put in an unbelievable shift. We've created plenty of opportunities that we didn't take but only one goal wins it."
Ireland face a tricky test to Denmark on June 7 before a home clash with Gibraltar three days later.