Monday 24 June 2019

John Fallon: 'Whether or not to start Seamus Coleman looking like Mick McCarthy's first big call'

Ireland skipper dropped by Everton faces battle to keep his place under new manager

Sticky situation: Everton manager Marco Silva encourages Seamus Coleman. Photo: Reuters/Craig Brough
Sticky situation: Everton manager Marco Silva encourages Seamus Coleman. Photo: Reuters/Craig Brough

John Fallon

It's fortunate that Séamus Coleman is so modest because just months after pledging to prove himself to Everton fans, he's got a job on his hands to win over his managers for club and country.

Yesterday's decision by Marco Silva to drop his captain and regular right-back for Everton's fixture against Leicester City was coming.

Jonjoe Kenny, who replaced Coleman at right- back yesterday. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Jonjoe Kenny, who replaced Coleman at right- back yesterday. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

A wretched December, in which they won just once in seven matches, was particularly forgettable for the Irishman and he possesses enough self-awareness to realise the axe was inevitable.

Coleman had already recovered from an early-season blip to score in November against Brighton and Hove Albion, admitting his overzealous celebrations of cupping his ears was motivated by wanting to silence his detractors.

At the start of 2019, the questions surrounding his reliability are billowing beyond Merseyside.

Mick McCarthy insisted at his unveiling that his first Christmas back in the Ireland job he craved wouldn't be all work and no play.

Mick McCarthy and Dennis Irwin back in 1999. Photo: David Maher/SPORTSFILE
Mick McCarthy and Dennis Irwin back in 1999. Photo: David Maher/SPORTSFILE

Regardless if he was enjoying downtime by sinking his favoured pint of plain or scouting players, it would have become apparent he's got a major decision looming on his choice of right-back for the opening games of his tenure in March.

Coleman may have avoided club woes affecting his international status had a rival not been making strides in the opposite direction. In fact, two Irish right-backs are playing regularly in the Premier League while he sits on the bench.

Matt Doherty's stellar 2018 with Wolves, both in the Championship and top flight, makes him the outstanding alternative but Cyrus Christie is also mounting a case for inclusion. Neither of those scenarios spark new year tidings of joy for the incumbent.

Short of not just regaining his place over the next two months but also upping his game, Coleman faces an uphill task for a starting place in Gibraltar on March 24. His replacement, Johnjoe Kenny, was one of the few Everton players to emerge from the defeat to Leicester City with any credit and there's also the temptation for under-fire Silva to purchase another right-back during this month's transfer window.

McCarthy likes his defenders, first and foremost, to defend and the way in which the 30-year-old was torn asunder in the games against Watford, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur over recent weeks won't have done much for his prospects.

It seems bizarre that a debate has arisen over Coleman's berth in the Ireland set-up.

Only a year ago, Martin O'Neill was placing high on his list of excuses for the World Cup play-off demolition by Denmark the absence of his "world-class" right-full.

Roy Keane wasn't afraid either to peddle that myth of Coleman's standing, made all the more ridiculous when cited in the same conversation as Gareth Bale, yet he was one of the few guaranteed starters under McCarthy's predecessors.

The new man, however, is his own man and won't hold fear of making decisions unpopular inside and outside the dressing-room. He's got a history of trusting his instincts.

Just two years into his first term as Ireland manager, back in 1998, McCarthy opted to change his right-back for a friendly against a talented Argentina side.

Denis Irwin was first choice in a Manchester United side heading for a record-breaking treble but reputation meant little to Ireland's manager. Jeff Kenna got the nod and, even when Irwin shone as a second-half substitute, McCarthy was unrepentant.

Doherty for a long period wondered aloud why his "face didn't fit" under O'Neill - a syndrome he needn't be concerned about anymore.

The pair know each other well, McCarthy taking credit for handing the Dubliner his first step into professional football eight years ago.

Hand-picked

McCarthy, as Wolves manager, hand-picked Doherty from a pre-season friendly against Bohemians, clinching a deal for €80,000. The rookie was handed a Premier League debut in September 2011. At Anfield, no less.

If his current right-back conundrum threatens to cause him a headache, then picking up the phone to Daryl Murphy won't.

His former striker from Ipswich Town officially retired from the international scene after the Denmark drubbing but the latest of his goals for Nottingham Forest yesterday will remind McCarthy of his scoring ability. His haul of five puts him ahead of Scott Hogan, Aiden O'Brien, Seán Maguire and Graham Burke in the Championship scoring charts.

Murphy's partnership with David McGoldrick worked a treat at Ipswich and the boss could do with the pair available for the eight Euro 2020 qualifiers coming this season.

That both are in their thirties won't matter a jot to pragmatic McCarthy.

Neither will overlooking the player he inherited as captain. A manager working on a single campaign will operate with a single mind.

Irish Independent

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