OpinionPaul McGrath

We'll beat Gibraltar 5-0 at least

Paul McGrathBy Paul McGrath
Robbie Keane
Robbie Keane

Ireland will beat Gibraltar on Friday in our Euro 2016 qualifier in Faro, Portugal.

It’s not original to write that, considering Gibraltar have so many part-time players.

But our lads will be professional, they will be focused and determined and they will go at their opponents straight from the off.

It would help the players’ nerves, and manager Martin O’Neill’s nerves too, if the Boys in Green could get an early goal or two, as they did in Dublin last October when Robbie Keane had a hat-trick wrapped up in the opening 20 minutes.

Yet if Ireland’s players have to wait for a goal, as the Germans did down in the Algarve – not scoring until the 40th minute and missing a penalty along the way – then we must stay patient, hold our shape and stick to the gameplan. 

It’s how you beat these minnows of the international game.

The tactic will surely be to play to a high tempo, force errors in passing and possession from Gibraltarand take them on wide.

Most probably this wil involve Aiden McGeady and James McClean seeking to get good quality passes into the penalty area for Robbie and either Shane Long or Jon Walters to feast on.

Even if the unthinkable happens, as it did to England in San Marino more than 20 years ago, when the hosts scored after nine seconds, Ireland have to stay calm and just play their football and get the goals that will win the match.

But the notion of Gibraltar putting it up to Ireland is taking things to the limit. It would be crazy if it happened.

No, our lads owe it to the many Irish football fans who will take advantage of the fact that the game is in a great holiday area to put on a bit of a show and make the net shake.

As a team and individuals, Ireland have the skill and the class to win this game well.

They will prepare well, physically and mentally, and they will have had the DVD out to spot where Gibraltar have improved, in terms of organisation, since they played so naively in Dublin 11 months ago.

I’d be expecting at least a 5-0 win for our boys on Friday to give the team the momentum going into the harder task of beating Georgia in Dublin a week tomorrow.

Of course, by the time Ireland run out in Faro, they will know how Georgia have fared against Scotland in Tbilisi, as that game kicks off at 5pm Irish time.

If our lads knew that Scotland had already slipped up, they would really go at Gibraltar with renewed hope.

That match is truly vital to Ireland as, having taken just the one point out of six off the Jocks, the reality is we need Scotland to slip up somewhere, even if Ireland are to scramble into a play-off.

Given that Gordon Strachan’s team have Gibraltar, and thus a guaranteed three points, for their final Group opponents in October, the Scots have to drop lots of points soon.

If they don’t, Ireland won’t even have a sniff of getting into third place in the section and thus get into that two-leg play-off to go to France next year.

I know Scotland have yet to play Germany and Poland, both at home, but this game next Friday against Georgia is actually the bonus game for Ireland.

It’s the one Scotland will be expecting to win, but also the one where we need their fine recent run to come to a shuddering end.

I know Gordon very well. He is a fiery, passionate boss and has got Scotland really playing well, and playing as a team.

He too will be well aware that this potential banana-skin of a game in Tbilisi is where his lads could throw away all the good work done against Ireland in Glasgow last November and in Dublin in June.

So they too will be ready for the challenge, so I cannot in my heart forecast that Scotland will have a nightmare in the steaming heat of Tbilisi next Friday.

But I’m afraid that our Euro 2016 hopes are reduced to hoping that it happens. That’s what happens when you draw at home and lose away to your biggest rivals in an international competition.