Georgia tie evokes memories of Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland bow after false start in Gibraltar

Sun, Mar 24 2019

Shane Duffy of Ireland chases Georgia striker Levan Mchedlidze during the sides' last Dublin meeting in 2016. Credit: Laszlo Geczo (ETPhotos)

It’s almost 11 years since the beginning of the Giovanni Trappatoni era as Republic of Ireland manager.

Trappatoni made his bow as Ireland boss against Georgia in September 2008 following the ill-fated reign of Steve Staunton from 2006-07.

‘Trap,’ as he was referred to by many, began his reign as the manager of the Boys in Green with a 2-1 win over Tuesday night’s opponents, Georgia, in Mainz, Germany.

The venue was used as a result of the civil tensions engulfing the Eastern European state at the time.

While Trap was unable to reach the promised land of South Africa in 2010, after that act by you know who in Paris, things got off to as smooth a start as one probably could have hoped for at the makeshift Georgian home venue.

Strikingly, there are only five players involved from that night in Mainz still plying their trade in a professional environment with Glenn Whelan, Andy Keogh, Paul McShane, Aiden McGeady and John O’Shea all still prowling around the block, just about. 

The Republic of Ireland took an early lead through the then Premier League hot-shot striker Kevin Doyle in the 13th minute after McGeady found the Wexford native’s head inside the Georgians’ six-yard box.

The 4,500 crowd, dominated by a strong travelling support in the west German city, had a while longer to wait before Trap’s boys in Green could make sure of the win on the banks of the Rhine with Georgia occasionally threatening Shay Given’s rearguard, ultimately to no avail.   

Whelan, loved by many in many different ways, unleashed a dipping long-range dive from range which caught out a desperately unlucky Georgian shot-stopper by the name of Giorgi Loria to secure all three points for the Boys in Green.

A lot has happened since then. Two European Championships have come and gone. 2012 was nothing more than an unmitigated disaster on the pitch while Euro 2016 was memorable, to say the least.

The second Mick McCarthy regime began in a rather dull and uninspiring clash in Gibraltar with Jeff Hendrick sparing the Boys in Green’s blushes after a largely forgetful encounter by the runway of Gibraltar International Airport.

While it would have been nice to stick a few past the Gibraltarian’s on the coast of the Mediterranean, the conditions clearly played a massive role in preventing any sort of an entertaining game festering out of the spectacle at Victoria Stadium.

The 720 or so Republic of Ireland fans made their presence felt throughout the 90 minutes but, in truth, they had very little to get excited about throughout the game with the high wind causing havoc at almost every possible opportunity.

Former Republic of Ireland defender Richard Dunne, in his post-match analysis of the game on RTÉ, said that it felt almost like a false start for the Boys in Green.

In fairness to Dunne, he was probably right. Georgia, while the Republic of Ireland have never been defeated by them, have always caused the Boys in Green issues in recent encounters.

The recent draw in Tbilisi was a prime example of the Republic of Ireland’s recent struggles against the Georgians with the former Soviet satellite state dominating for large spells of the game.

Tuesday night’s encounter at Lansdowne Road provides Mick McCarthy and co. with the ideal opportunity to kickstart this new era post-Martin O’Neill.

It’s a game that has the makings of a difficult night at the office for the Boys in Green should we read into any of our recent results against Vladimir Weiss’ side.

With over 40,000 tickets sold and plenty more expected to pass through the turnstiles at the Aviva Stadium, there seems to be a newfound confidence surrounding this Irish team.

Whether this is just blind faith or a calculated masterstroke from the powers that be, we will all soon find out as kick-off approaches at the Dublin 4 venue in just a few days’ time.