MX23RW : Friday, July 30 23:25:30| >> :600:4352890:4352890:
Mar 26, 2019 at 7.45pm UK at Aviva Stadium
Attendance: 40,317
Rep. IrelandRepublic of Ireland
1-0
Georgia
Hourihane (36')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Mick McCarthy heaps praise on Conor Hourihane after "special" winner

Glenn Whelan also played his part as he won his 86th senior cap.

Mick McCarthy saluted match-winner Conor Hourihane after seeing him fire the Republic of Ireland to the top of their Euro 2020 qualifying group.

The Aston Villa midfielder capped an impressive individual display with a superb free-kick to hand Ireland a 1-0 win over Group D rivals Georgia at the Aviva Stadium.

Ireland turned in a much-improved display after labouring to victory over group minnows Gibraltar by the same score on Saturday, and Hourihane, who has taken over dead-ball duties from Robbie Brady under the new manager, was singled out for particular praise.

McCarthy said: "Obviously, I'm delighted because his performance on Saturday was excellent, tonight his deliveries his free-kicks and corners were good.

"The goal was something special, wasn't it? I'm pleased for him because I've always believed in him and thought he was a good player.

"I tried to sign him, but we didn't have any money and he went elsewhere."

Republic of Ireland v Northern Ireland – International Friendly – Aviva Stadium
Republic of Ireland's Glenn Whelan salutes the fans (Lorraine O'Sullivan/PA)

Hourihane's cause was helped in no small part by the presence of vastly-experienced club-mate Glenn Whelan alongside him.

Eyebrows were raised when the 35-year-old was handed an 86th cap after his international career had appeared to draw to a close under last boss Martin O'Neill, but his poise in the middle of the field allowed those around him to prosper.

McCarthy said: "He was absolutely remarkable. For 35, it's a testimony to how well he has looked after himself. I thought he had a really, really good game. He started us playing and he broke things up."

The Republic dominated much of a game which was at one point halted briefly when fans protesting against outgoing Football Association of Ireland chief executive John Delaney threw tennis balls on to the pitch.

Play restarted with Hourihane's decisive free-kick, although it took a fine save in first-half stoppage time to deny Valerian Gvilia an equaliser and a post to keep out Jaba Kankava's late strike.

The win, coupled with Denmark's 3-3 draw in Switzerland, left Ireland clear at the top of the group and exactly where they hoped they would be with sterner tests to come.

Asked about the result in Basel, McCarthy said: "It was a good result for us. They might cut each other's throats and get a couple of draws, who knows?

"But we have to play other teams and beat them, so it doesn't bother me. I can't affect what they do."

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Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy pictured on March 22, 2019
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Saturday's key events


TRIATHLON
· After silvers in both the men's and women's events, Team GB will be fancied to get on the podium again in the mixed relay (11.30pm-1am)

SWIMMING
· Touted as Michael Phelps's successor, Caeleb Dressel already has two gold medals from these Games and he will be going for a third in the men's 50m butterfly final (2.30am)
· It is Katie Ledecky vs. Ariarne Titmus III in the women's 800m freestyle final, with Ledecky entering as firm favourite (2.46am)
· Great Britain will be heavily fancied to add another gold medal to their swimming haul, having produced by far the fastest qualifying time for the mixed 4x100m medley relay final (3.43am)

ATHLETICS
· Dina Asher-Smith is one of three British women in the 100m semi-finals (3.01am-3.20am), and will hope to challenge for a medal in what is likely to be a star-studded final (1.50pm)
· The inaugural Olympic 4x400m mixed relay event concludes with Great Britain one of the eight finalists going for gold (1.35pm)

RUGBY SEVENS
· Team GB's dreams of an unlikely gold are still alive in the women's event as they face France in their semi-final (3.30am). The winners will face either New Zealand or Fiji in the gold medal match later in the day (10am)

SAILING
· Gold medals are up for grabs in the windsurfer - RS:X finals. Emma Wilson participates for Team GB in the women's final (6.33am), while Tom Squires is in action in the men's (7.33am)

TENNIS
· Following his shock semi-final defeat, ending his hopes of a Golden Slam in 2021, Novak Djokovic battles for bronze against Pablo Carreno Busta (7am)
· The women's singles event reaches its conclusion with the gold medal match between Belinda Bencic and Marketa Vondrousova

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