Mick McCarthy hails ‘good day’ as Republic of Ireland clinch another win

Mick McCarthy was a happy man after seeing the Republic of Ireland complete a maximum haul of six points from their first two Euro 2020 qualifiers on his return as manager.

Conor Hourihane’s fine free-kick secured a 1-0 win over Georgia at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night to go with their victory by the same score, but in far more prosaic style, over Group D minnows Gibraltar on Saturday.

With Switzerland and Denmark fighting out a 3-3 draw in Basel, Ireland sit at the top of the group, although tougher tests lie ahead.

Asked if they could stay there, McCarthy said: “Don’t know. It’s a good place to be, isn’t it, after two games?

“There was a lot that pleased me tonight – individual performances, the all-round team performance, which I thought was excellent.

“We’ve had a great week, working and training. We’ve stopped them (Georgia) from doing what they wanted to do. I thought we played some really good football.”

Some fans threw tennis balls on to the pitch as protests against outgoing Football Association of Ireland chief executive John Delaney punctuated the game at regular intervals, but the atmosphere was largely positive as Ireland played with a genuine vigour for long periods.

Asked if it reminded him of the good old days of his first spell in charge, McCarthy said: “Good, new days. It’s a good day.

“That’s all in the past. I never think about that, what’s happened in the past. This is a new start for me, and a new start with some new players. I thought the atmosphere was brilliant.”

Hourihane’s decisive 39th-minute strike came after a clean-up operation to remove the tennis balls from the pitch, and while McCarthy had urged supporters not to protest before the game, he was simply pleased their actions had not broken the concentration of his players.

He said with a smile: “It was balls, wasn’t it? I was concerned it would affect our concentration after our free-kick if they broke on us.

“I don’t know if it affected their concentration or not, but it doesn’t matter what happened, there was no stopping that free-kick. I don’t think it affected the game at all.

“Apparently Paddy Power had odds on me getting hit on the head, so I turned around and thought, ‘If anyone throws one, I’m going to head it back’, so whoever bet on it would have won the money.”

Opposite number Vladimir Weiss admitted before the game that Georgia’s chances of qualifying from the group – they already have a play-off place by virtue of their Nations League exploits – could depend on how they fared in Dublin after losing their opening fixture at home to Switzerland.

He said: “We have lost these two games and that’s not good for us, but we have played against Switzerland and Ireland, two of the top teams in the group along with Denmark.

“We will try our best and work hard to prepare against the top teams, but it is different when you are playing against players from the Premier League and the Champions League when our players play in Kazakhstan and Poland.

“The days when Georgian players played at big clubs in England and Italy are in the past.”