RELY on Robbie Brady to ensure that there are no slip-ups in today’s potential banana skin against Georgia.
While Martin O’Neill has claimed Georgia are the best bottom seeds in Europe, the Boys in Green have rarely come unstuck against the group lightweights.
Boss O’Neill might be right but Ireland fans do not need reminding the Georgians have proven tricky customers in three competitive meetings over the last three years.
But the truth is that when it comes to fifth and sixth seeds in qualifying, Ireland get the job done, with the few failures over the last 30 years still being all too memorable.
As qualification groups have got bigger, Ireland have played 52 games against fifth and sixth seeds.
And Ireland’s record? Played 50, won 44, drew four and lost just two.
Two of the draws can largely be discounted as they were in the 2010 qualifiers against Montenegro, who were sixth seeds because, as a new nation, they had no international record.
But the 5-2 loss against Cyprus, the 3-2 defeat when Ireland ‘had a Macedonia’ and the draws against Liechtenstein near the end of Jack Charlton’s reign and the stalemate with Cyprus that ended Steve Staunton’s time in charge are never forgotten.
There have been near misses too — Stephen Ireland rescued us against San Marino, while there was a late comeback to beat Kazakhstan.
So there is no reason to expect today to be any different, which makes Ireland’s odds of 8-11 to win look fair — especially as O’Neill’s team have proven adept at grinding out results in tricky situations.
Brady is also a good price to score at 11-4 given he will be on free-kick duty and Georgia are set to change their goalkeeper with veteran stopper Giorgi Loria ruled out.
Replacement Giorgi Makaridze has won eight caps over the last ten years as, even as Loria has struggled, he has not been trusted to take his place.
NAP: Ireland @ 8-11
TREBLE: Ireland, Wales Ukraine @ 7-1
ANYTIME SCORER: Robbie Brady @ 11-4