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'It’s up to me to find a way to bring out my best game when I put on the Ireland jersey'

Matt Doherty admits fans have yet to see the best of him in an Ireland jersey.

Matt Doherty pictured training on Wednesday evening.
Matt Doherty pictured training on Wednesday evening.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

MATT DOHERTY HAS come a long way since being a youngster on the fringes of the Bohemians team, unsure if he even had a long-term future in football.

Since then, he has met every challenge that has come his way. Loan spells at Hibernian and Bury, establishing himself as a regular player with Wolves in England’s lower tiers, making the step up to Premier League level and now coping with the expectation of a big-money move to Spurs.

It’s therefore no surprise to hear he is taking the latest test with the North London outfit in his stride.

“I don’t feel any added pressure at all,” he says of the Tottenham move. “I’ll just go out and play the way I like to play. I don’t feel any extra pressure at all.”

The 28-year-old has already made five appearances for Spurs. And the club’s hectic schedule, he says, is the main reason he was left on the bench for last Sunday’s remarkable 6-1 win over Man United at Old Trafford.

[Jose Mourinho] never said anything. It was a case that we had four games that week and all four full-backs started two games each. This is just a thing that happens when you have got that many games, when you are at big clubs, big squads. There is competition for places and everyone is bringing the best out of each other. There is no problem there. It’s just the way it is. I’d started all league games until then, so I had no issues with what happened.”

Of last weekend’s memorable victory, he adds: “The place was bouncing. We’d beaten Chelsea on penalties during the week, on Tuesday, and we’d beaten Maccabi Haiti 7-2 [on Thursday]. The goals were flying in, lads were playing well. So there is a great atmosphere around the place at the moment. We just take it game-by-game obviously, but there is a special atmosphere at the moment. We really feel we can do something special with that type of squad.”

Rise_Of_Kenny_final

Perhaps the one thing missing from Doherty’s impressive CV is sustained success with Ireland. He made his international debut as recently as March 2018 and did not feature in the Boys in Green’s squad for the last Euros, despite then-club manager Kenny Jackett suggesting he deserved a place on the plane to France amid a season in which he was named the Championship team’s Player of the Year. 

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Nevertheless, the Dubliner is optimistic he can make up for that disappointment by helping the Irish side beat Slovakia and ultimately qualify this time around, despite their traditionally poor record away from home in big qualifiers.

I’m just a confident person all the time. I see the lads in training all the time, I see them playing for their club teams. I know the ability and quality is there and I know how well we can play. 

“I just back the players that are here, I have belief in the players that are here to go and win and quality for the final game. 

“We can be thinking a bit along the lines of the Denmark game, we knew that was a must-win game [to qualify automatically]. I know we drew the game, but the performance that we had, it was probably one of best performances in a long time. Once you have that, you know that it’s going to be make or break, that you have to win the game, it can bring the best out of us.

“I guess you can say it’s the same for them. Us being away and them being at home, they might be a bit used to having a crowd. They might be a little bit bothered by not having it. We’ll use anything and everything to our advantage and get the job done.”

For all his positivity, Doherty agrees with the assessment that fans generally have not seen the best of him in an Irish shirt yet.

“Yeah, you could say that. I think in the last camp, definitely. The one before that, Denmark, that’s the type of player you would normally see at club level. But I guess we play differently. We probably don’t have as much of the ball as we do at club level. So yeah, I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. It’s up to me to find a solution. It’s up to me to find a way to bring out my best game when I put on the Ireland jersey. It’s nobody else’s fault, nobody else is to blame for that other than myself. I need to find the way or the path for me to bring out my best game here.”

As David O’Leary knows, one sure-fire way Doherty could earn a permanent place in the hearts of Irish fans is by scoring the winning penalty in a shootout. And it’s no surprise to hear that the self-professed confident character would be more than happy to take a spot kick if required.

If they would let me, I’d definitely take a penalty. We were practicing penalties for about a month now. Ever since I’ve come back training with Tottenham, I’ve been practising penalties all the time after training for cup games. And even yesterday, I was taking penalties. I would definitely be one to take the responsibility and grab the ball.

“When I was at Bury on loan, I had a couple of games where I was on penalties and scored, and we had a couple of shootouts where I scored as well. So yeah, it’s something that I would definitely be for. I’d never put my hand down if they asked who wants to take one, my hand would be straight up.”

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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