Debutant Aaron Connolly almost came out on top in Georgia after dropping from the bank to trigger a rebound in the Republic of Ireland.

The 19-year-old rescued goalkeeper Giorgi Loria in the 90th minute and then fired on the outside net when he could do better in a flash cameo, which almost pays off.

Defender Shane Duffy, who led a concerted raid on a tight qualifier for the Euro 2020 round in Tbilisi, headed in front of Loria after an injury break, but Ireland eventually had to settle for a 0-0 draw in Group D.

In truth, they had earned nothing more from a performance that, apart from a late attack, lacked the inspiration for a far more creative Georgian crew, but did not find the edge to reap the rewards of their good work.

The Republic's qualification hopes were dashed by the two inestimable points in the Boris Paichadze Arena, as the already difficult trip to Switzerland on Tuesday took on even greater proportions.

Ireland had had a tough encounter on its last two trips to Tbilisi and knew exactly what to expect. Within seconds of kick-off, Valeri Qazaishvili exchanged passes with Jano Ananidze at the edge of the box before shooting a shot wide.

However, the worst fears of Georgia boss Vladimir Weiss were realized in almost four minutes, albeit from an unexpected source.

The head of the Republic of Ireland, Mick McCarthy, is watching
Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy watching (Steven Paston / PA)

The Slovak had admitted his concern about Duffy's potency by standards, but it was John Egan who came to Conor Hourihane's free-kick to throw a header over the helpless Loria, only to see the ball fall off the post again.

Georgia's attack continued, and Otar Kiteishvili orchestrated from the middle of the field behind the lively Ananidze and Qazaishvili. The visitors made for a determined rearguard.

Strong in the duel and decisive on the ball, the home team squeezed Ireland back into their own half, leaving striker James Collins painfully isolated on his first start for his country.

Matt Doherty, who played in the absence of suspended Enda Stevens as the left-back, threatened to alter the flow of the game when he made his first move on 27 minutes and passed the Georgian defenders on the way into the box, but was unable to do so to supply his flank before the ball went out of play.

James McClean could not help the Republic to victory in Tbilisi
James McClean failed to help the Republic win Tbilisi (Steven Paston / PA)

Traffic was largely one-sided and the Republic was due to Duffy, whose presence in Tbilisi was doubtful until Wednesday due to a calf injury, and he pushed back a series of crosses from full-backs Jemal Tabidze and Otar Kakabadze.

In spite of all their possessions and their intentions, Georgia were unable to seize any chances when Qazaishvili struck Glenn Whelan from a distance after 42 minutes from striker Giorgi Kvilitaia's James McClean pass.

Mick McCarthy's men continued to defend their traditional stubbornness after breaking with Egan, in line with Duffy's flying skills in his own box, although keeper Darren Randolph was relieved to see Ananidze's free-kick sail high above his crossbar in the 66th minute.

McCarthy made his move with 11 minutes left to send Connolly to his first senior cap, and the youngster could have won him on death with a low drive that drove Loria to a solid parade before firing into the side netting and then Duffy's big chance.

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