Seamus Coleman hails 'fantastic' Irish hero Aiden McGeady
Seamus Coleman is confident Aiden McGeady can be a regular match-winner for the Republic of Ireland after watching him do just that in Georgia.
The 28-year-old Everton winger chose Ireland's tricky Euro 2016 Group D opener in Tbilisi as the perfect moment to display his undoubted talent and fire his country to a precious victory.
McGeady's double, the second of which arrived inside the final minute of normal time at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena, clinched a 2-1 win and fulfilled club-mate Coleman's pre-match prediction.
The full-back said: "He [McGeady] was brilliant, fantastic. I said to him before the game, 'You can win us this match' because he's got that ability to beat players and his confidence is up at the minute, and I'm delighted to see it.
"To be fair, I thought a lot of people would have snatched at it – James [McCarthy] actually played him in rather than shoot, which was great composure in his behalf. It was a good Everton goal. Moments of magic win games and Aiden did that.
"We all know that's what he is capable of week-in, week-out and as long as he believes it, he can be a top, top player."
McGeady's brace either side of Tornike Okriashvili's 38th-minute equaliser, although the fact that his fourth and fifth Ireland goals arrived in his 70th senior appearance is a stick that has often been used to beat him in the past.
However, he is thriving on Merseyside after forcing his way into the team following his January arrival from Spartak Moscow, and Coleman and his team-mates at will hope there is more to come.
The former Sligo Rovers defender said: "It's difficult because he was playing in Russia and not a lot of people follow the Russian league. He might have been doing brilliantly out there and you just don't notice it. But since he has come to us, the manager believes in him a lot. He has started the season very well and he showed tonight that he's on top form.
"It's brilliant for him. His confidence is up – the move to Everton could have done him the world of good. We saw the best of Aiden McGeady tonight."
Left-back Stephen Ward, who lined up behind McGeady for much of the game, was equally thrilled by his contribution, but far from surprised.
Ward said: "We see him every day and we know how good a player he is. He has done fantastically well for our country and tonight showed just how big a player he is because he was outstanding. He scored two and came bitterly close to getting a third as well.
"To score that late is important and gives us a good start, but throughout the game, I thought we fully deserved it.
"Something like that, we see every day in training and when you have got a player like that in your team, you have got every chance all the time."
The Republic will now welcome minnows Gibraltar to the Aviva Stadium next month knowing victory would send them into their toughest game of the campaign in Germany with maximum points and brimming with confidence.
Ward said: "We won't look too far ahead of the next game – the manager and the staff here won't let us. But if we can continue and get another positive result, we will go to Germany full of confidence.
"That's the minimum to go there with now, and hopefully we can do that."