Sunday 18 August 2019

'It would be crazy to not want to be playing in Dublin at a Euros' - Matt Doherty reveals his burning ambition for Ireland ahead of Danish test

Ireland's Matt Doherty at the official launch of the new team suit for 2019 from sponsor Benetti Menswear at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ireland's Matt Doherty at the official launch of the new team suit for 2019 from sponsor Benetti Menswear at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

WHILE Gibraltar remains a dirty word in many respects around the Ireland camp, for Matt Doherty’s immediate Irish career, it may prove slightly scarring also.

Ireland got the three points in March which was all that mattered, not the hapless performance which, featuring a Seamus Coleman/Doherty double act as one of its pillars, resulted in the Wolves man perishing upon the country’s famous rock.

The captain was never going to be dropped for the second Euro 2020 qualifier against Georgia; so Doherty was sacrificed instead, despite the fact he will be the only Irishman playing European football next season with an English club.

Mick McCarthy, characteristically, has already told us he will adhere to his swiftly, but fully-formed, opinion; he hasn't the time to experiment so Coleman alone, not Doherty, will form the main plank of Ireland’s right-hand side in Copenhagen this Friday.

"I didn't know he said that until you just told me," says Doherty, speaking as Benetti menswear formed a partnership with the FAI.

He is slighted, as any professional of his quality and status naturally should.

But then again not as miffed as he may have been had Martin O'Neill’s name been invoked, rather than McCarthy's.

Not that we would have ever known, of course, given his confession that his “face didn’t fit” in O’Neill’s plan.

Prompted by the unsightly Gibraltar performance, and the subsequent Georgia success designed without Doherty at its core, McCarthy’s unwillingness to change tack is, perhaps, explicable, even if still hard for him to take.

"I know Seamus obviously plays to a high level," he says.

Matt Doherty
Matt Doherty

"I play to a high level as well. It’s just one or the other. He’s just got to pick one.

"There's no hard feelings at all. Whoever plays, we’ll support each other, they’ll have that backing. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter who plays once we win the game, that’s the most important thing.

"I don’t know how we persuade him we can play together, just keep training is the only thing you can do.

"We will see what happens but I am not sure it will happen any time soon.

"I’ll keep training, I'll keep playing as well as I can and we’re probably spurring each other on really. I'm trying to get ahead of him, he's trying to get ahead of me. It's a good thing that it’s making us both want to improve and get better."

The Gibraltar experiment may have back-fired but little Ireland tried to implement that day worked so it seems curious that McCarthy would consign the chance of dove-tailing two of Ireland’s better players in the same team.

With a limited window in qualifying, though, the manager clearly feels he must go with his gut feeling; and right now, instinct tells him that two into one doesn’t go.

"I don't look back at it that much," Doherty says of that grim Saturday on the Rock.

"I might look back and think, 'was I really that bad?' Maybe I don't think it was that bad. I don’' look back on it with that many good memories.

"It just didn't work but what worked that day? We believe we can play together but we have to wait and see, it might happen again and everything could work.

"It was one of them games, one of those days where it didn’t come off but we still did some nice things, we still linked up a few times and it wasn’t a total disaster.

"I've never come here with a guarantee to play so nothing has really changed. So we’ll just have to wait and see.

"If I do play, I'll try and do the best I can and if I don’t play, I'll support Seamus.

"We're quite close, good friends around the camp. Whoever plays will have the backing of the other."

England, infamously during their much-touted ‘golden generation’ era, often suffered by attempting to shoehorn their best players into the side, such as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.

It's not directly comparable but McCarthy, with a limited time-frame and myopic goal of qualification in his short-term managerial stint, clearly feels that sacrificing someone of Doherty’s ability is worth the risk in the balance he seeks in his side.

"The more you do it," counters Doherty, however, "the more you become accustomed to each other’s way of playing.

"That was the first time we ever played together. We believe we can work together down that side.

"At the end of the day, I understand he is going to pick one of us at right-back."

For now, he's lost the argument but he won’t lose his will to fight.

"I've never been in a major competition. If you don’t want to be there, you might as well leave now because it would be crazy to not want to be playing in Dublin at a Euros."

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