Tuesday 16 January 2018

Wolves man knocks at Ireland's door

Birmingham’s Clayton Donaldson is challenged by Wolves’ Matt Doherty in the box during their Championship match at Molineux last weekend Photo: PA
Birmingham’s Clayton Donaldson is challenged by Wolves’ Matt Doherty in the box during their Championship match at Molineux last weekend Photo: PA
Doherty in action for the Ireland U21s Photo: Sportsfile

A trip to Cheltenham this week earned a fresh batch of footballers, two of them Irish, a place in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

Wolves defender Matt Doherty, one of the uncapped hopefuls in the provisional Ireland squad for next week's international action, was far away from the fleshpots of the Cotswolds, choosing instead to spend his afternoon off watching England play the West Indies.

A wise decision, it turns out, as Doherty's former team-mate with the Ireland underage teams, Samir Carruthers, found himself in some unwanted places like the front pages of national newspapers with an ill-advised attempt to (literally) piss away his career.

"I have no interest in going to Cheltenham, I have no interest in going out and messing," Doherty told The Herald.

"I would rather focus on what games I have coming up, stay in and prepare for those games, stay rested, prepare well to have the best career possible. It's a short career, it's going quickly and before I know it I will be 28-29.

"Young players want to go out with their friends, think it's just about going to training and not doing any extra work, think it's an easy life but it's not easy."

Wise words from a 24-year-old but Doherty admits that it has taken him time to reach that level of understanding. His mentors at Bohemians before his 2010 move to England, Pat Fenlon and Owen Heary, are on record as saying that Doherty's talent was never in doubt - but his attitude was, Fenlon getting a later taste of that when Wolves sent Doherty on loan to his Hibs side (2012) to toughen him up.


"I always thought I was good enough - whether I worked hard enough in my early stages is up for debate and I probably didn't work as hard as I could have," Doherty admits.

"That comes with experience and maturity, you start to realise what you are meant to do, and you change if needed. I suppose when you're young you think you know it all."

A call-up to the Ireland squad, albeit a provisional one, is just reward for Doherty's good season with Wolves, even more credit due as the ex-Bohemians man - a natural right back - has been playing at left full.

Uncapped players like Doherty, Christopher Forrester and Jonny Hayes may not get to make the trip to Dublin when the senior squad assembles here on Sunday, as Martin O'Neill will trim that 40-strong provisional panel down.

But it was a vote of confidence ahead of the 2018 World Cup campaign which starts in September. Players like Shay Given, Robbie Keane, John O;Shea and Daryl Murphy are likely to leave the international stage after the Euros and the call-up for the likes of Doherty was a nod in their direction from Martin O'Neill. "I have no idea what the story is as I had no contact from anyone about next week. I will assume that I will come over and train for a bit, but if I don't make the final squad then so be it, I will just stay at Wolves and train away there," Doherty says.

"I would love to get a cap but it would be more for my family as I know it'd be huge for them to see me play for Ireland.

"Of course I will try and make a push for the Euros, if I am in the squad next week it won't be to make up the numbers. I assume the manager will select from the players who go the team qualified but it's good to be in the mix.

"I take the call-up as recognition of how we are all playing at the moment. A lot of us are playing in the Championship this season, it's a hard league but I am playing well and in good form so it's nice for that to be recognised.

"I have been over here for a few years now but a lot of the time it's been stop-start, last season I didn't play much in the second half of the season, this season I didn't play much in the first half but it's been good lately," he added, now comfortable at left back.

"I think I could bring some versatility to the squad. I can play left back or right back, and I don't see it as a case of filling in at left full, I am as comfortable there now as I always was at right full.

"I'm not a small guy, I am a big lad, I win most of my headers, I can defend and go forward on both sides. I don't think I would let anyone down if I did get the call to come in next week."

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