On a night when his team might have lost, but passed up a good chance to win in stoppage time, O'Neill left the Boris Paichadze Stadium knowing victory over Serbia, who beat Moldova 3-0, on Tuesday night is a must if they are to keep alive their hopes of automatic qualification.
"Maybe it was too good a start and subconsciously we sat back way too much and wanted to hold on to the lead".
And so it proved with Georgia having 74% of the possession in a game were Ireland often looked laboured, bereft of ideas, and, in truth, lucky to escape Tbilisi with a point thanks to Shane Duffy's goal.
Duffy went close to restoring Ireland's lead on the cusp of half-time, but the visitors' performance thereafter was poor, with stray passes and a lack of bite in midfield allowing Georgia an easy ride as they picked up their fourth draw of the campaign.
Over on Irish TV channel RTE, Tony O'Donoghue had a tough job following the game.
"We have to obviously play better and give the Serbians less room to play than we gave the Georgians tonight, particularly in the first-half".
"It was a different environment and one that I've got to try get to grips with better than I did tonight", he added.
While Ireland have won all eight of the previous meetings between the countries, O'Neill is nonetheless cautious as Georgia have the capacity to deliver a significant shock, something Scotland discovered to their cost, and Ireland's benefit, in this city two years ago.
McClean and substitute Aiden McGeady did have two late chances to nick a win, but a heavy first touch and a woeful effort from 12 yards respectively put paid to those chances. "We'll have to be really, really at our best to win the game - but we can do that".
"I don't think there's a quick fix to it".
"They're a good side and we knew they were good at keeping the ball".
Aleksandar Kolarov then made it two for Serbia 10 minutes later, arriving at the back post to slot home, before Aleksandar Mitrovic rounded off the scoring by converting Filip Kostic's delivery nine minutes from the end.
"It is nice to pop up here and there with a goal but I would rather get a clean sheet and three points".
Jano Ananidze's chip in the tenth minute over pretty much the entire Irish squad but just out of the reach of Otar Kakabadze was the warning shot, as no Irish player felt the need to rush the man with the ball, and Georgia began to get more comfortable and cute.
"Personally I was really disappointed with the first half, and the second half".
"It's a pity that we had some individual mistakes, especially the goal we conceded, but football without mistakes just does not happen and I am very happy with the way that my team played overall, with their effort". We need a lot of thinking about what went wrong, and thankfully we have a game so soon to put things right.
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