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'I'm totally comfortable playing in that position' - Irish opportunity finally knocks for Matt Doherty

With Enda Stevens suspended, the Wolves defender looks to be at the top of the queue to fill in at left-back.

MATT DOHERTY SITS down to face the media. 

“Matt, can you tell us which position you’ve been training in this week?” 

Doherty pauses, looks to the FAI’s media handler, and slips his response through a grin.

“Eh, no.” 

sean-maguire-and-matt-doherty Matt Doherty speaks to the media today alongside Seani Maguire. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Doherty has lost out to Seamus Coleman at right-back under Mick McCarthy thus far, his only start of the qualifying campaign so far coming in the opening game away to Gibraltar in March. 

He played ahead of Coleman on the right-wing on that day, but was taken off before the hour mark. McCarthy administered the last rites to that experiment in the post-game press conference in admitting it didn’t work. “I don’t think that’s on the table”, confirmed Doherty today.

He has been forced to bide his time since, but Saturday’s qualifier against Georgia offers an opening. With left-back Enda Stevens suspended, McCarthy admitted last month Doherty was an option to fill that berth.

That’s not much of a surprise given McCarthy signed him for Wolves as a left-back. 

“Enough people have been screaming for him to play so he might get his chance at left-back”, added McCarthy on Monday. 

While Doherty didn’t say whether a decision has been made on that – Derrick Williams is another option – he said swapping from the right won’t be an issue should he get the gig. 

“I’m totally comfortable playing in that position. I played two seasons there for Wolves – one and a half seasons, maybe, it was – so it would be nothing new to me.

“If that is the case, then yes, I’ll enjoy it and grab the opportunity with both hands.”

Doherty last played that position three years ago, before Nuno arrived at Wolves and converted him to a right wing-back. If McCarthy swaps him back for a night in Tbilisi, Doherty says he will have few issues adjusting. 

“Positionally, if you’re on the right-hand side you automatically know where you’re meant to be: if you’re meant to be a little bit higher or deeper.

Going to the left, everything feels a little bit off: you might be a little too high at times, or a little too close to the centre-back at times. Going forward there is no real issue, it’s more defensively. Positionally, it might take a couple of minutes to get used to, but that’s it.

“It shouldn’t take any longer than that and it shouldn’t cause much of a problem.” 

Offensively, he is excited by the prospect of cutting inside on to his right foot. 

“When I was in that position thats what I used to love doing. I was saying to myself, ‘Maybe I enjoy playing there more than the right-hand side?’

“Obviously my mind changed when I went back to the right-hand side and realised that was better, but going forward my assists and goals at Wolves were still one of the highest in the team.

“You can cut in, you can do many things. You can play long-field passes, shoot, play one-twos and they always think you’re going to go inside, which allows you to go down the line too. 

“I enjoy going forward from the left, it opens the game up.” 

Doherty missed Ireland’s most recent camp with a knee injury, and says he is now getting back to full fitness. ”

“I got injured in the first week of pre-season and then I came back right at the start of the season, but I was still injured really.

“My injury is only kind of just clearing up now, so I’ve been playing for a while not at 100 percent – probably at 60 or 70 percent – which in the position I play, I kind of need to be playing at 100 percent. Form-wise, it’s kind of been slow progress.

“The last couple of weeks, when we’ve played Watford and played Besiktas away, is kind of where I’ve started to really feel good again with my knee and I’m almost at 100 percent, so there’ll be no excuses in terms of my fitness or anything like that. I’m starting to feel really good again.” 

matt-doherty-replaced-by-robbie-brady Doherty is taken off in Gibraltar. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

If Doherty does get his chance at left-back – does he think he can hang on to the jersey full-time? 

“It’s not easy to break into the international team, that’s for sure. Once you get in you want to do the best you can, and if you do well enough you might hold your place.

“That’s not always the case, it might be a case of someone coming straight back in after, we’ll wait and see.

“But when you do play you have to play well to give the manager a choice to make.” 

Ireland trained at their Abbottstown HQ this morning, a session in which James McClean took a full part having trained separately to the squad yesterday as he nursed a sore back. Shane Duffy and David McGoldrick are running out of time to prove their fitness to McCarthy, both remain with their clubs and are nursing groin and hamstring injuries respectively.

McCarthy said the duo’s deadline for inclusion against Georgia is the Irish squad’s departure from Dublin – that takes off at 2pm tomorrow. If either or both are ruled out of Saturday’s game, they may yet link up with the squad in Geneva for Tuesday’s qualifier with Switzerland. 

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from FAI HQ, Abbottstown

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