Elevation to captaincy shows how highly Ireland manager Stephen Kenny rates Matt Doherty

Matt Doherty is feeling 'honoured' after being named Ireland captain. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

His international team manager thinks so highly of Matt Doherty that he’s made him captain for tonight’s friendly against Latvia. With Séamus Coleman given the night off, the armband has been passed on.

Doherty, however, has yet to gain such a level of confidence from Diego Simeone, who has picked the Dubliner to play just once for Atletico Madrid since the player’s deadline-day move from Tottenham in January.

But Doherty claims he’s not too stressed about his lack of game time in Spain. “It is frustrating at times, but I have learned to deal with it,” revealed Doherty, whose only appearance since his move to the Spanish capital came as a substitute.

​“I was at Wolves for a long time, where I played every second of every game. I am sure there were players at that time who were trying to get in and were in the same boat. Over time, I’ve become more experienced and been able to deal with it a lot better.

“I am there until the end of the season and I am just using it as a learning experience. I am improving by training with world-class players every day. I am using the six months I have there to try and get better, to try and understand the game better and improve my overall game,” said Doherty, the first Irish-born player to line out in Spain since Steve Finnan’s brief spell with Espanyol 15 years.

“It’s a different experience completely – different culture, different preparation for games. I’m enjoying my time there, even though I’m not playing that much. Initially (the move), it was just to go on loan for the rest of the season, then we (Tottenham) had problems with too many loans.

“I couldn’t really say no to that type of experience and a manager of his calibre. I always like to challenge myself. I didn’t have long to think about it, but I couldn’t say no to that opportunity.”

He has left London behind – for now – but Antonio Conte’s hold on Doherty remains. He has given his backing to the Italian in the face of the civil war raging at the club. The situation became more fractious at the weekend with Conte’s no-holds-barred outburst after the 3-3 draw at Southampton in the Premier League.

“I hope he stays for a long time at Tottenham. He’s an unbelievable coach, an unbelievable manager. He’s completely honest with his players. I hope Tottenham stick by him and hold onto him for as long as possible. He’s one of the best managers of all time,” added Doherty.

The 31-year-old had to bide his time in his bid to establish himself in green, suffering from the shrug of indifference Martin O’Neill often greeted him with. His elevation to the captaincy is a sign of how highly Kenny rates him. It’s a long way from his humble beginnings in football, which was spent working under Harry McCue and others at a FÁS course in the Bogies in Cabra.

“It’s obviously a pleasure, a great honour, I’ve never done it before, so when Stephen told me, I was a bit surprised, I didn’t expect it. I’ve to thank him for doing that. I know he believes in me a lot. He’s always kept in contact and I guess he knows that when I’ve played, I’ve never let him down. That will be the same case again. Hopefully, I can do him proud.”