Doherty is latest to suffer raw deal
Defender joins army of jobless Irish as game shows brutal side, says Aidan Fitzmaurice
THE celebrations didn't last too long for The Doc.
Five days after the end of possibly the best season in his career -- 44 appearances and seven goals from defence for a Norwich City side which won promotion to the Championship -- came the bad news and the harsh reality of unemployment, as former Ireland and Tottenham man Gary Doherty was given a free transfer by Norwich manager Paul Lambert.
He may have become (unfairly) the butt of jokes and jibes from some Ireland supporters over the years, all those Ginger Pele T-shirts, but Doherty played out of his skin for the Canaries last season and was close to winning the club's player of the year award.
But, as this summer will show, sentiment holds no currency in the football world and Doherty is just one of a large batch of Irish players who is now out of work and hoping to gain a new contract somewhere.
Doherty has some old comrades for company as former internationals Lee Carsley, Steve Finnan, Steven Reid and one-cap-wonder Jonathan Macken have all been let go by their clubs, while other former Ireland men like Colin Healy, Daryl Murphy, David Connolly and Clinton Morrison are either out of contract or are unwanted by their clubs.
There will be some big-money Irish moves this summer. Stephen Hunt and Kevin Doyle could have new Premier League employers when the new season kicks off in August, maybe Aiden McGeady too, while relegated Portsmouth will have to sell some of their top stars, and Ireland U21 cap Marc Wilson is one of their best assets.
But for others like Doherty, a more humble destination (Watford has already been mentioned) awaits.
"Gary has done really well for us and played a big part this season," said Norwich boss Lambert.
"He came back really strongly after being dropped early in the season and got himself into the team on merit with some excellent performances. He leaves the club after nearly six years of solid service and we're grateful for all the effort he's put in for Norwich during that time.
"Gary's a great lad and a great professional and I'm sure he'll take away some brilliant memories from his time at Norwich, including this season."
Two highly experienced players are now dropping out of the Premier League and appear to have played in the top flight for the last time, with Lee Carsley exiting Birmingham City and Steve Finnan's release from relegated Portsmouth.
"I came here with a plan," said Carsley, who joined hometown club Birmingham on a Bosman from Everton two summers ago after the Blues were relegated.
"I feel I've achieved what I set out to do -- help get the club back into the Premier League and keep it there," added the 36-year-old, who managed just nine games for Birmingham due to injury last season.
Carsley is keen to carry on playing -- "I might have another two years left in me," he says -- but also wants to start work on the coaching side and he could follow the example of someone like Gary Breen, who played for League Two side Barnet last season while also working as assistant manager.
Some experienced Irish players now find themselves out of work and hoping to get new deals, such as Dubliner Derek Geary, released by Sheffield United after six years at Bramall Lane; former Premier League player Sean Thornton, axed by Orient; much-travelled striker Barry Conlon, released by Chesterfield; Alan Sheehan, let go by Leeds.
Some young players have also been allowed leave. Terry Dixon, famously promoted to the senior Ireland squad by Steve Staunton when he was only 16, spent 18 months at West Ham trying to regain fitness after a career-threatening knee injury but the Hammers have let him go, while current U19 striker Daniel Kearns appears to be surplus to requirements at Upton Park. Other young players like Danny Kelly (Norwich), Shaun Timmons (Birmingham) and James Cronesberry (Middlesbrough) have been let go.
And there could be more bad news to come as clubs cope with the trauma of relegation. That could affect Irish players from the Premier League (Hull's trio of Stephen Hunt, Paul McShane and Kevin Kilbane), Championship (Sheffield Wednesday pair Darren Potter and James O'Connor) and League One (Southend man Alan McCormack, Stockport's Richie Partridge).
Darlington, demoted to the Conference, have already released three of their Irish contingent, Gary Dempsey, Simon Madden, Richie Byrne, and wanted to keep top scorer Tadhg Purcell, but he will be able to find a new club in a higher division.
IRISH MOVES COMPLETED
Billy Mehmet (St Mirren to Genclerbirligi, Turkey)
Josh O'Keeffe (Walsall to Lincoln)
Michael Collins (unattached to APEP, Cyprus)
Harry Arter (Woking to Bournemouth)
IRISH ON THE MOVE
Lee Carsley (Birmingham, released)
Steve Finnan (Portsmouth, released)
Stephen Elliott (Preston, transfer-listed)
Eddie Nolan (Preston, transfer-listed)
Jon Macken (Barnsley, released)
Terry Dixon (West Ham, released)
Daniel Kearns (West Ham, released)
Derek Geary (Sheffield United, released)
Tadhg Purcell (Darlington, rejected new deal)
Richard Keogh (Carlisle, rejected new deal)
Roy O'Donovan (Sunderland, out of contract)
Sean Thornton (Orient, released)
Gary Doherty (Norwich, released)
Callum Morris (Newcastle, released)
Shaun Timmons (Birmingham, released)
Danny Kelly (Norwich, released)
Barry Conlon (Chesterfield, released)
David Vanzanten (Hamilton, released)
Alan Sheehan (Leeds United, released)
Richie Byrne (Darlington, released)
Dwayne Mattis (Walsall, released)
Graham Coughlan (Shrewsbury, released)
James Cronesberry (Middlesbrough, released)
Gary Mulligan (Northampton, released)
Stephen O'Flynn (Northampton, released)
Barry Corr (Exeter City, released)
Simon Madden (Darlington, released)
Gary Dempsey (Darlington, released)
OUT OF CONTRACT
Steven Reid (Blackburn)
Stephen O'Halloran (Aston Villa)
David Connolly (Southampton)
Colin Hawkins (Brighton)
Graham Carey (Celtic)
Clinton Morrison (Coventry)
Shane Redmond (Nottingham Forest)
Brian Barry Murphy (Bury, offered new deal)
Stephen Dawson (Bury, offered new deal)
Rene Gilmartin (Walsall, offered new deal)
SIGNED NEW CONTRACT
Seamus Coleman (Everton)
Jonathan Hayes (Inverness)
Richie Foran (Inverness)
Stephen Folan (Newcastle U)
Jamie Devitt (Hull)
Kevin Thornton (Northampton)
Shane Long (Reading, linked with Birmingham)
Kevin Doyle (Wolves, linked with Arsenal)
Stephen Hunt (Hull, linked with Wolves, WBA, Everton)
Marc Wilson (Portsmouth, linked with Celtic)
Daryl Murphy (Back at Sunderland after loan at Ipswich)
Colin Healy (Back at Ipswich after loan at Falkirk)
Dave Mooney (Back at Reading from loan at Charlton)
Michael Doyle (Back at Coventry from loan at Leeds)