Martin O'Neill extends Republic of Ireland contract

Martin O'Neill extends Republic of Ireland contract

Having agreed a two year contract extension the previous day, manager Martin O'Neill will be both delighted and relieved to secure the three points to set up a win or bust clash with Wales in Cardiff on Monday.

It should have been 3-0 on 23 minutes, Long again being deserted by the the finish he needs to end his goal starvation, now a 24-game barren run.

Without Bale, Wales produced a disciplined performance against a tricky Georgian side who drew 1-1 in Cardiff - one of five draws for Coleman's team.

"We always knew that we needed to win this and we look forward to the next one", said the Nottingham Forest striker. He might still play in The Championship, but his technique and running from deep could soon earn him a move to the Premier League, where he would gain the experience to make a difference at global level. Obviously, I played in a different role; central midfield with the option to go wide but what's more important is that we got the 3 points.

England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland all still harbour hopes of reaching Russian Federation next summer. The goal was made possible only because of the careful delivery afforded to the cross by Stephen Ward after Hoolahan opened up the play by spraying a cross field pass.

Defeat would be a blow to the visitors' hopes of finishing second.

"It will help us, of course, but it is not the be-all and end-all. We have some good players coming back".

"We are halfway there", Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey said. "It is there for us, let's go for it".

"(Jokingly) He's normally at 60 minutes usually calling for a stretcher anyway at some stage or another, so I think he was surprised to find out that he was still playing after 71 or 72 minutes.

The nine group winners qualify automatically, with the other four places decided by playoffs between the eight best runners-up.

The Derby Counter midfielder rifled in the victor four minutes after half-time in Tbilisi as Chris Coleman's side pulled to within a point of Group D leaders Serbia, who would qualify with a win in Austria later. Portugal6+18152. N Ireland6+7133. Italy6+3134.

"Knowing that group - Coleman, his coaches and players - and how they talk about things, they will be fully focused on the Georgia match and not even thinking about the Republic at all". He does not care about that now.

"What we need to do now is rest and recover and get ready".

Ireland head for Cardiff with their fate in their own hands thanks to three men at very different stages of their worldwide careers.

The O'Neill-Keane team guided Ireland to last summer's Euro 2016 finals via the play-offs and saw them perform creditably to reach the last-16 in France courtesy of a famous victory over Italy.

Ireland hasn't qualified for a World Cup since 2002.

The Bristol City winger was chosen ahead of Aiden McGeady to replace the suspended James McClean, who will probably return to the showdown in Cardiff, as will Robbie Brady.

As for Shane Long's frustration at not finding the net after an evening where a missed a few clear-cut chances. the Southampton player, nevertheless, is still very much in the manager's plans to spearhead the attack in Wales.



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