SAINTS striker Shane Long was a second half sub as the Republic of Ireland defeated Oman 2-0 in a friendly in Dublin last night.

The £12m signing came on around the hour mark for Kevin Doyle, who had netted the opening goal.

One-time Saints loanee Alex Pearce's late strike handed manager Martin O'Neill just the second win of his reign to date, which now amounts to eight games, in the final friendly before the competitive action gets under way in Georgia on Sunday.

The Omanis represented modest opposition and Ireland might have won more comfortably on a night when they hit the woodwork twice in front of a crowd of just 14,376 at the Aviva Stadium.

Quite what O'Neill will have learned from a game in which he rested most of his key men is a matter for debate, but there were positives other than the final score.

Everton midfielder Darron Gibson got 70 minutes under his belt in his first appearance since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament on international duty in October last year, while veteran goalkeeper Shay Given played the first half on his return to the Ireland fold.

Stephen Quinn was quietly impressive in central midfield, while Wes Hoolahan was sharp as he buzzed around in the hole behind lone striker Doyle.

Ireland, ranked 66th in the world by FIFA, looked significantly stronger that 67th-placed Oman, but in truth, they were unable to kill the game off until Pearce, who had scored his only other goal on his debut as a substitute against the same opposition in 2012, found the back of the net.

O'Neill, who saw his side lose 5-1 to Portugal in their last game, will field a much stronger starting XI in Tbilisi, and his players will have to be much more clinical if they are to return with the positive result they crave.

Whether Given is included in that team is a decision the manager insists he will not make until the final few hours of his preparations with Millwall's David Forde the man in favour recently.

However if the Aston Villa man does get the nod, he will certainly not have as quiet an evening as he enjoyed on his return.