Sport Soccer

Sunday 19 November 2017

Wolves defender Doherty happy to get relegation respite

John Fallon

IRELAND U-21 defender Matt Doherty admits swapping a relegation dogfight with Wolves for the serenity of international duty is a nice relief.

The former Belvedere and Home Farm full-back will win his third cap in tonight's friendly against Portugal at Oriel Park (7.30) and plans to add another scalp to those taken against Italy and Holland.

Amid the relegation crisis engulfing Wolves lately, Dean Saunders has thrown the 21-year-old straight into right-back spot in favour of the experienced Kevin Foley.

Though they still remain second from bottom in the Championship, the Dubliner's elevation has been a rare success this term at Wolves.

The Swords native comes into tonight's international off the busiest run of his now blossoming career.

"Things have been hectic recently, with me playing five games on the spin over three weeks, but my goal was to break into the team and stay there.

"Personally, I couldn't be happier, but, of course, not for the team because we're still battling relegation.

"The boss (Saunders) told me to be ready for the first team and it came not long after I returned from loan at Bury.

"Once he let Richard Stearman and Ronald Zubar leave the club in January, I knew the right-back position was there for me to challenge for."

In contrast to his situation at Molineux, the Irish team Doherty lines out in tonight is on an upward curve.

The visit of the Portuguese, followed by a double-header friendly against Denmark and Croatia in late May, will complete the build-up for the European Championship qualifiers, which kick off in the Faroe Islands on August 15.

He said: "I love these trips for international duty.

"This is another friendly so we'll, hopefully, express ourselves and play the freedom like we did against the Dutch.

"Teams in our qualifying group will look at our results and not fancy playing against us. We've got most of the squad from two seasons ago that reached the U-19 European Championship finals."

Irish boss Noel King yesterday confirmed that another former Belvedere graduate, Graham Burke, was going to make his debut tonight.

The Aston Villa winger was drafted in as a replacement for clubmate Derrick Williams, who is ruled out for six weeks with a hamstring strain.

IRELAND (probable) – A McCarey (Wolves); M Doherty (Wolves), S Duffy (Everton, capt), A O'Connor (Burton Albion), S McGinty (Man Utd); C Reilly (Birmingham), K Ferdinand (Peterborough), S Carruthers (Aston Villa); G Burke (Aston Villa), A O'Brien (Millwall), A Forde (Scunthorpe).

Irish Independent

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