Shane Duffy says Georgia can help Ireland’s qualifying hopes

They dominated and we knew they could take points off teams because they’re good

Ireland’s Shane Duffy celebrates after scoring the opener against Georgia in their 2018 World Cup qualifier in Tbilisi. Photo: Zurab Kurtsikidze/EPA

Ireland’s Shane Duffy celebrates after scoring the opener against Georgia in their 2018 World Cup qualifier in Tbilisi. Photo: Zurab Kurtsikidze/EPA

 

Shane Duffy was in philosophical mood after his first goal for the Republic of Ireland proved only enough to secure a World Cup qualifier draw in Georgia.

The 25-year-old Brighton defender got his country off to the best possible start in Tbilisi when he headed them into a fourth-minute lead, only for their hopes to unravel from that point onwards.

Duffy and his team-mates were perhaps fortunate to leave the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena with a 1-1 draw, although substitute Aiden McGeady was handed a gilt-edged chance to win it late on.

But having been subjected to a major scare, Duffy is hoping Georgia can yet have a say in how Group D finally pans out with Ireland’s qualification rivals Serbia and Wales still to face Vladimir Weiss’ improving side.

Duffy said: “They dominated and we knew they could take points off teams because they’re a good team. That little final bit of end-product is probably what they don’t have and bigger countries do.

“For me personally, I’d say they’re better than some of the teams ranked above them. On paper, it’s not a glamorous team, but that was difficult, and at home it was too.

“We want to beat those teams, but if you can’t beat them, you need to avoid defeat and we did that. We’ll take that positive on to Tuesday.”

The Republic host Serbia on Tuesday in a game which is likely to prove pivotal to their hopes of making it to Russia next summer.

Serbia sit two points clear at the top of the group, with third-placed Wales two points behind Martin O’Neill’s side.

Tame home draws against Wales and Austria and a failure to win in Tbilisi could prove costly if Ireland do not beat Serbia, and there will have to be a marked improvement in performance if they are to stand any chance of doing that.

Duffy said: “We know it’s a huge game and if we win that then we can potentially top the group. If we do that, we’re one step closer to the World Cup.”

Midfielder Harry Arter admitted manager O’Neill’s half-time team-talk in Georgia was not for the faint-hearted, and he knows he and his team-mates will have to raise their game significantly against Serbia.

Arter said: “You can imagine what the manager said, but I’d rather let him tell you what his words were. He was very disappointed and he let us know.

“The second half was slightly better and in the last 20 minutes we had the better chances even though we didn’t play well.

“Regardless of the result, that (Serbia) game was always going to be critical. They won, so the pressure is on us — but it probably would have been the same. We have to try and get a result against them at home.”

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