A bemused Mick McCarthy has taken as a compliment opposite number Vladimir Weiss’ comparison of his team to Michael Flatley.
The Republic of Ireland boss was initially taken aback when told his Georgia counterpart had likened the Euro 2020 Group D leaders to the Riverdance star at his press conference in Tbilisi on Friday afternoon, but soon warmed to the thought.
McCarthy said: “I don’t know how to answer that. I’m not usually stuck for words.”
When it was explained that Weiss meant that his team plays with great passion and energy, he added: “Oh, I see, I thought he meant we had good feet when we got the ball.
“I think when someone describes you as someone who is as brilliant as Michael Flatley, such a wonderful performer and dancer – and a good guy, actually – I will take that as a huge compliment for my team.
“If anybody is as good at his sport, his discipline, his whatever… He is excellent at it, so I will take that as a huge compliment.”
Ireland will certainly have to be nimble on their feet at the Boris Paichadze Arena if they are to emerge with their lead at the top of the group intact.
They have met Georgia on 10 occasions to date and have won nine and drawn one, but the gap between the sides has closed to negligible proportions in recent times and they were fortunate to emerge from their last trip to Tbilisi two years ago with a point – the result rivals Denmark managed at the same venue last month.
Asked if he would settle for the same return this time around ahead of Tuesday’s even tougher trip to Switzerland, McCarthy said: “If we get a point, we will have to go away happy with what we’ve got. But we are coming to try and win the game.”
Skipper Seamus Coleman, who was celebrating his 31st birthday on the eve of the game, knows that will be easier said than done.
He said: “There’s no way we’re coming here and thinking we can just walk home with the three points.
“From the first time I played [against Georgia], I’ve seen the improvements in them as a team and the way they play has been immense, so all credit to Georgia for that.
“We’re coming here respecting them for what they’re good at. It will be a tough game, we need to make sure we’re at it and we need to win the game as well.”
The Republic’s chances of doing that have been boosted by the return of key defender Shane Duffy to fitness after a calf injury which threatened his participation.
He only joined up with the rest of the squad on Wednesday, but seems certain to maintain his ever-present tag in the campaign.
McCarthy said: “It would be kind of ridiculous of me, the way he’s played, the way he’s performed, if he’s fit for him not to be in my team, wouldn’t it?
“If you’re looking for one starter, then Shane Duffy… He’s just been outstanding. I’d be bonkers to leave him out.”
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