Monday 14 October 2019

Doherty tries diplomacy with Georgia and a likely return to the left on his mind

Matt Doherty, left, and Jeff Hendrick during a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown
Matt Doherty, left, and Jeff Hendrick during a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown
Matt Doherty. Photo: Action Images via Reuters
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The 13-second pause from Matt Doherty in response to a straightforward question about his Irish career probably said more than the answer.

Diplomacy wouldn't necessarily be the Dubliner's calling card. He has spoken honestly about his approach to interviews, and a reluctance to give the safe response because he finds it hard to lie.

At the same time, there is an awareness that he probably needs to draw a line under his relationship with Martin O'Neill, with an interview with Richie Sadlier on 'Second Captains' last week shedding more light on the memorable phone call where the Derryman declared the Wolves player "a tosser" for criticising O'Neill and Keane on the day of their exit.

Honestly

Doherty's defence is that he had agreed to go on 2FM and felt that he should answer honestly. He's not going to get much grief in the media for that when anodyne answers are the order of the day within his trade.

So back to that query about the assessment of his Irish career to date. He shoots a glance in the direction of the press officer during the delay.

"Well, I've not played that much obviously and I want to play as much as I can," he replies, slipping into stereotypical mode. "I have to bide my time and whenever my time comes to be more of a regular...obviously I have to train well and still play well at club level but I'm just getting on with it. If I play, I play, if I don't, I don't and I will work harder to try get into the team."

Does he feel his Irish career has started yet? "Well, how many caps have I got? Seven? Is it seven? Four or five of them have been as subs. You want to play as much as you can. I don't really know what to say.

"I'm not frustrated or anything like that. I'm not annoyed with how it has gone. I will just wait and when I'm called upon, I'll be ready."

Evidently, the game face is on this week, given that Doherty is in pole position to start at left-back in Tbilisi due to Enda Stevens' suspension.

He has experience of lining out there at Wolves under Kenny Jackett, even scooping a player of the season gong in the pre-Portuguese era at Molineux.

Doherty is a different animal now, a Premier League regular fresh from a week that included a Europa League victory away to Besiktas and a shock success at Manchester City.

He was introduced late in that game due to a busy schedule, but had noted the vibes around City weren't great.

"It seemed a bit nervous at 0-0," he admits. "There was a few misplaced passes and the crowd, it almost seemed like it was towards the end of the season, and they had to win. I remember turning to one of the lads and saying the crowd could turn here pretty quickly for no reason.

"It wasn't that we had scored early for that to happen, it was still 0-0."

Doherty's season has been somewhat stop-start due to a niggling knee problem.

The reason he missed last month's international double-header was the pressing need to undergo treatment on a problem with his lip. That was an unusual episode which he traces back to a golfing holiday in Portugal last year where he possibly didn't wear enough sunscreen.

The freckle type abnormality drew some comments from his doctor, especially when Doherty said it was more than a year old.

"We went to the dermatologist and she was like: 'Nah, I don't like it, you're probably going to have to have it cut out'. "

The worst-case scenario at that juncture was that more of his lip would need to be removed, with scarring potential.

At one point in discussions, the possibility of skin cancer was mentioned but it was dismissed just as quickly.

Surgeon "I went to the surgeon on the Wednesday before the surgery on the Thursday and he was just like: 'Oh, if I was to put money on it, it would be to say that it's just nothing'."

That proved to be the case, and Doherty could move on with his life. He likely would have been on the bench for the Switzerland game, with Seamus Coleman the established right full-back.

The Coleman v Doherty debate raged earlier this year, and it isn't particularly well known that the pair are really good friends.

Stephen Hunt told a story on 'Off The Ball' recently about ringing Doherty to find that Coleman was in the car with him.

"We were going to the shop to buy sweets because 'Love Island' was on," Doherty replies, painting a slightly unusual picture of life in camp.

"We are best mates when we get here," he asserts. "It's not, 'I want to play', or, 'You want to play'. We are probably the closest to each other. Our friendship is strong."

Come Saturday, they should find themselves in the same side.

Irish Independent

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