Doherty insists he's not frustrated as he battles with Coleman for Irish right-back berth

The Wolves right-back is remaining patient following Mick McCarthy’s admission that playing both against Gibraltar didn’t work.

Matt Doherty with Seamus Coleman at an Irish training session earlier this year.
Matt Doherty with Seamus Coleman at an Irish training session earlier this year.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

IRELAND’S GENIUS FOR finding themselves with a pair of Premier League-quality right-backs at the same time continues unabated. 

Mick McCarthy could choose between Stephen Carr and Gary Kelly the last time he had the job, and this time he has Everton’s Seamus Coleman and Wolves’ Matt Doherty at his disposal. 

While Coleman endured a difficult start to the season to close it out in fine form, Doherty was consistently brilliant for Wolves in a right wing-back position, missing only three league games and scoring four times for a side that finished seventh and qualified for the Europa League. 

Mick McCarthy tried to solve his right-back conundrum by playing both against Gibraltar in March, with Coleman captaining the side from right-back and Doherty playing ahead of him as an orthodox right-winger.

That it didn’t entirely go to plan was hinted at by the fact Doherty was substituted 11 minutes into the second-half, and confirmed post-game by the manager. 

“No. It didn’t particularly work well, that”, McCarthy said in his post-match press conference at the Victoria Stadium.

“He’s been the best attacking wing-back in the Premier League to be quite honest, but there’s probably been more room on the pitch. When teams are sitting back, has he got the silky skills to go past people? I’m not sure.” 

Doherty was then out of the starting line-up for the following game with Georgia. 

So, is Doherty frustrated that, despite his outstanding form, he finds himself competing for a place with Coleman? 

“Frustration? I would say no”, Doherty told the media ahead of Friday’s Euro 2020 qualifier with Denmark. 

“It’s just the way it is. Me and Seamus get on really well – we’re quite close, good friends – and whoever plays will do a good job.” 

Why did the Gibraltar experiment not go to plan? 

“I don’t know. Me and Seamus have spoken and spoken about it, what we thought at the time. We didn’t think we were that bad, actually. Not much came off in that game for anybody, really, it was just one of those games.

“But we believe we can play in the same team, we can work together. But that’s not our choice, so we’ll just have to wait and see when the team gets announced who plays.

“We know each other’s games, we’re both confident players and I don’t see how we wouldn’t be able to work. But like I said, that’s not my decision.” 

McCarthy – who first brought Doherty to Wolves by signing him from Bohemians – took him aside ahead of the Georgia game to tell him he was out of the team. 

“It was fine”, recalls Doherty. “He just said what he was going with. I didn’t necessarily have a problem – I could half-see it coming after the game.

“It’s never a good thing, really, when you’re getting taken off after 55 minutes, you know you’re probably going to be in trouble for the next game, so it was nothing new to me.” 

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Although McCarthy initially signed Doherty as a left-back in 2010, he is a right-back now and it is in that position he aims to impress his international manager. 

“He knows I can play in a number of different positions, but in training, I’m playing right-back. I guess I’ll just have to bide my time and see how it goes.

“Like I said a few minutes ago, whoever plays will do a great job. Right now, it’s not me so I’m going to have to just wait for my chance.”

That chance looks unlikely to come on Friday, but Doherty is ready should it arrive. 

“The team has not been named yet, so in my head, I will still train and before the team is named, I will still prepare as if I am playing.

“If I’m not, I will still do the same, because I might have to come on after five or 10 minutes, who knows what can happen. So look, if I don’t play then I will support Seamus, and if I do play I will try and do my best.”

On a broader point, two wins from two in March coupled with Denmark and Switzerland drawing 3-3 leaves Ireland top of the group, and Doherty is hoping another pair of positive results over the next week can make Ireland the surprise package of Group D. 

“We have obviously started off with six points out of six, and that is probably why Friday night is so important.

“If we can get a result going into Gibraltar, maybe have 10 or 12 points by the end of the summer, it goes a long way towards qualification which is the end goal.” 

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