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O'Neill prepared for Tbilisi test

Martin O'Neill is ready to deal with the heat in more than one way when he sends his Republic of Ireland team into battle in a competitive match for the first time.

Ireland launch their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign against Georgia in Tbilisi on Sunday evening in a city which has basked in soaring temperatures in recent weeks.

Their 62-year-old manager and his players jetted out to the former Soviet Republic on Friday prepared for a hostile reception and knowing they might have to battle the weather too.

O'Neill said: "That will be very interesting, yes. I would imagine if it's going to be hot - as they say it is - then you might have to make obvious adjustments. It is played in the evening time, but temperatures might still be up.

"I've never been to Georgia, but obviously the experiences of before with people I'm listening to, they say it can still remain pretty hot in the evening time.

"All of those things will bear some consideration when we come to Sunday."

O'Neill has had plenty of time - 10 months since his appointment - to consider his options before selecting his team for their first meaningful fixture, and ran the rule over several players in Wednesday night's 2-0 friendly win over Oman in Dublin.

However, one man who seems certain to get the nod at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena is 25-year-old full-back Seamus Coleman.

The former Sligo Rovers player has established himself as a regular in the Ireland team, and while his defensive qualities may be the major focus in Georgia, his ability to get forward and score goals could prove equally useful.

O'Neill said: "He gets himself into those sort of forward positions for club level. That's very good. He might be asked to play differently at international level - I don't mean just with me but maybe before - and It is a case of getting used to different surrounds.

"I always think this idea of replicating something at international level when you play not half as often at club level, where you hit a routine - suddenly you hit a goal from full-back and the next week you're thinking about doing the same again.

"I'm quite sure he's capable of getting into those positions to score."

The squad which flew out to Tbilisi amounted to 23 after Keiren Westwood, who was quarantined after succumbing to tonsillitis earlier in the week, was sent home, while striker Anthony Stokes has been released.

O'Neill said: "Westwood has had to go home. He is pretty ill. He has been isolated for the last couple of days. It's a real shame."


From Belfast Telegraph