Skipper Robbie Keane has tipped Aiden McGeady to play a major role in the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2016 qualifying campaign after seeing him launch it with a match-winning double in a 2-1 win over Georgia.
McGeady silenced a partisan home crowd at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi with a 90th-minute winner having earlier fired the visitors into a first-half lead in their Group D opener.
The Everton winger’s decisive strike was just the fifth of the his international career on a night when he collected his 70th cap, but Keane is convinced a player of his ability can produce on a more regular basis.
He said: “I think this could be a big campaign for Aiden. He’s experienced enough now to go on and help this team and be a big part of this squad.
“When you’ve got good players like him, if everyone can contribute and score goals, it’s only going to help the team. He can do that.
“From day one, I’ve been a big fan of Aiden, I’ve made that clear over the years, and he can deliver that kind of stuff.”
McGeady has not been done any harm by the appointment of Martin O’Neill, his former Celtic manager, as Ireland manager, and having handed the 62-year-old victory in his first competitive outing, Keane is hoping their relationship will flourish.
He said: “When you’ve got a manger you feel comfortable with and who knows your personality, it helps you from the start.
“He’s at an age now, back in the Premier League with a good team and delivering on a regular basis for Everton, and that will only benefit us.”
McGeady admits O’Neill is regularly in his ear, but insists while he wants to continue to improve, he has been satisfied with his career to date.
He said: “He [O’Neill] can have these off-hand remarks that he says to you, like with the ability that I have, if I concentrated more or didn’t mistakes, I could be up there with other players in Europe.
“Maybe he’s just saying it, but it can give you belief. He’s always been like that, even at Celtic.
“I’m happy within myself. Everyone would like to have a better career. I’ve played top level, the Champions League - if my career finished now, I could look back happily on it. But you always want to do better.”
Meanwhile, Georgia boss Temuri Ketsbaia was left to reflect on a heartbreaking defeat after coming within minutes of a point.
He said: “Ireland’s second goal was the only moment of quality in the second half. Perhaps a draw would have been a fair result and left both teams happy.”