REPUBLIC OF IRELAND 7 GIBRALTAR 0
Robbie Keane scored a hat-trick inside 13 minutes to become the leading all-time scorer in the history of the European Championship qualifiers as the Republic of Ireland cruised to victory over Group D minnows Gibraltar before a crowd of 35,123 at the Aviva Stadium.
It marked a third hat-trick in green for Keane as he brought his remarkable tally of international goals to 65. A brace from James McClean; a fine solo strike from man-of-the-match Wes Hoolahan and a bizarre own goal from visiting goalkeeper Jordan Perez completed the scoring.
Though five changes from the win in Georgia last month, there were few surprises in the Ireland line-up. Hull City's David Meyler slotted into right-back in place of the injured Seamus Coleman. Glenn Whelan was left on the bench as Darron Gibson was partnered in central midfield by Jeff Hendrick as manager Martin O'Neill went with a well-balanced looking selection with two wingers in Aiden McGeady and James McClean. Hoolahan started up top alongside skipper Keane rather than in the hole behind him.
Gibraltar, playing in their first ever competitive away game, fielded just three full-time professionals in Preston-based right-back Scot Wiseman, left winger Jake Gosling of English League One leaders Bristol City and Liam Walker who is the only professional based in Gibraltar with Lincoln Red Imps.
As expected, Ireland dominated possession from the opening whistle with Hoolahan heading over the top at the back post from McGeady's cross to register their first effort on goal after four minutes.
Hoolahan quickly made amends for that miss in the build-up to Ireland's opening goal two minute later, however. The Norwich schemer's sublime ball with the outside of his left foot put McGeady in behind on the right. And the Everton wideman's low cross was swept home by Keane.
Perez made a terrific parry save from McClean's volley on nine minutes before Ireland doubled their lead five minutes after that. Hoolahan was again involved, controlling the ball on his chest before volleying a through pass for the run of Keane who slid the ball home.
It was a milestone goal as it brought the 34-year-old a record-breaking 20th goal in European Championship qualifiers.
The hat-trick soon arrived for the LA Galaxy ace on 18 minutes as he slotted home a penalty after Hoolahan had been upended by 'keeper Perez.
Further magic from the influential Hoolahan almost brought a fourth goal in the 34th minute when the former Shelbourne midfielder won the ball to run at the Gibraltar defence and rifle a left-foot shot narrowly wide.
A minute later, Perez made his second fine save of the game when getting his fingers to McGeady's angled drive to push the ball away for a corner.
It took just 32 seconds of the second half for Ireland to extend their lead when McClean got his first goal of the night when sliding in to tap home Keane's cross.
A comical own goal brought Ireland's fifth score on 51 minutes. Perez initially parried a shot from Keane. But the ball came to Hoolahan whose effort was cleared off the line by Scott Wisemann only to rebound off Perez and enter the net.
McClean got his second goal within two minutes when toeing home after Perez had pushed away a shot from Keane.
It was seven up on 56 minutes with a fine solo goal from Hoolahan who all but walked the ball home when dribbling in on goal from the left edge of the area.
Gibraltar, cheered on throughout by a sizeable band of fans, almost got a goal back just past the hour mark when Joseph Chipolina got his head to Brian Perez's corner only to see his effort acrobatically palmed over the top by David Forde.
Only a terrific save at the other end from Gibraltar substitute goalkeeper Jamie Robba prevented Ireland equalling their record 8-0 win against Malta from 1983.
Substitute Robbie Brady picked out McGeady with an inviting cross from the left, but Robba spread himself bravely to stop the header with his body.
Republic of Ireland: Forde; Meyler, O'Shea, Wilson, Ward (Brady, 70); McGeady, Hendrick, Gibson, McClean; Hoolahan (Doyle, 64), Keane (Murphy, 63).
Gibraltar: J. Perez (Robba, 60); Wiseman, R. Casciaro, R. Chipolina (Santos, 58), J. Chipolina; Payas; B. Perez, Bado (Guilling, h/t), Walker, Gosling; L. Casciaro.
Referee: Leontios Trattou (Cyprus).