MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) takes a look at the betting ahead of Ireland’s crucial Euro 2016 qualifier with Georgia in Dublin on Monday night.
Republic of Ireland v Georgia | Monday 19.45 | Sky Sports 2
Football can be a cruel (and kind) mistress; with Scottish supporters pain came Irish followers’ glee on Friday. Gordon Strachan’s men flopped in Georgia to reopen the door to third-place in Euro 2016 qualification Group D – the Boys In Green duly despatched no-hopers Gibraltar with ease and leapfrogged their Celtic neighbours with three games to play.
Irish boss Martin O’Neill has reiterated his stance since day one, mind. This pool is nowhere near decided and there’ll be plenty of twists and turns still to come. On Monday night the Georgians make the journey to Dublin, eager to add the Republic to their hit-lis.t But following Friday’s shock result, nobody in the home camp should be taking the match as a gimme three points.
For the third time in this current campaign O’Neill has described the game as a “must-win” and anything other than a victory would be deemed a disaster. O’Neill claimed Dublin dates with Poland and Scotland were in the same category but Ireland were held in both – a repeat here could have fatal consequences and a blow from which even they would struggle to recover.
Should the Boys In Green do the business at the Aviva and world champions Germany leave Scotland with a win, Ireland would hold a strong grip on third place at least. Centre-half stalwart John O’Shea reckons the Republic need seven points from their final three outings to guarantee qualification – with Poland and Germany to come, it looks an unlikely feat.
Georgia do not tend to travel well – their only competitive away win in the last decade was against Gibraltar – but the visitors are buoyed by Friday’s result and performance and are approaching this tie with added professionalism and confidence under new head coach Kakhaber Tskhadadze.
Anyone who watched their clashes in Tbilisi against Ireland and Scotland would know the problems the visitors can potentially pose. In both encounters, the heat may well have played a factor in sub-par performance levels from both visiting nations but Scotland’s failure to deal with Empoli striker Levan Mchedlidze shouldn’t have gone unnoticed.
However, the good news for Ireland is the visitors are weakened by the injury to Spartak Moscow midfielder Jano Ananidze who has not travelled and amongst “three or four” other injury concerns. First choice goalkeeper Giorgi Loria may not have recovered sufficiently himself to feature.
The Boys In Green have won all six previous encounters with the Crusaders but previous meetings have been far from walkovers. Aiden McGeady’s stoppage-time wonder goal gave O’Neill maximum points this time last year in Tbilisi and four of their previous five head-to-head duels in competitive action have been settled by a single-goal margin.
But despite this scaremongering, Ireland have the tools to do a job on Monday night. As already mentioned, Georgia aren’t the same animal on the road and a return of W1-D4-L17 from their most recent 22 competitive away days means anything but a home win should be deemed a big shock. The Republic are 8/15 (Bet365) to pocket maximum points and to be honest, I expected something a little skinner.
I don’t expect Ireland to runaway with an easy win. I don’t expect Ireland to produce a glistening display. I certainly don’t expect it to be a comfortable ride. These matches are often tight, ugly, gritty affairs, even in Dublin. Therefore, I’m keen to look at the winning margin markets – Ireland to win by exactly one goal is an attractive 23/10 with Ladbrokes with Paddy Power offering 10/3 on a home win by exactly two goals.
Georgia have lost by three or more goals just twice in competitive away games over the past 10 years whilst Ireland have only managed meaningful victories by the same margin on three occasions in Dublin over the same timeframe. Backing the two selections above should net us decent profit if the Irish justify their tag as solid favourites.
Republic of Ireland v Georgia – Republic of Ireland to win by exactly one goal (23/10 Ladbrokes)
Republic of Ireland v Georgia – Republic of Ireland to win by exactly two goals (10/3 Paddy Power)
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