Conor Hourihane strikes for Republic of Ireland in vital win against Georgia

Republic of Ireland fans came to this match armed with tennis balls and hope. They threw the former in anger but did not have to let go of the latter, because Mick McCarthy’s team delivered with style. Conor Hourihane’s wonderful goal from a free-kick ensured Ireland got three points to reward a highly encouraging performance. True, Darren Randolph had to make two exceptional saves to preserve Ireland’s lead but the home team’s display was brighter than at any point in the recent past. Suddenly the future does not look so bleak.

The buildup had been dominated by two things: threats of sabotage through the tennis balls and promises of a fresh style of football inspired by McCarthy. Both materialised, with a protest unprecedented in Dublin punctuating the sort of fluent performance not seen from Ireland for more than a year.

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