Matt Doherty: Ireland need to ‘take the game by the scruff of the neck’ in Slovakia

Spurs full back enjoying the responsibility given to players by new boss Stephen Kenny

Matt Doherty taking part in Ireland’s training session  at the FAI National Training Centre in  Abbotstown on Monday. Photograph:  Niall Carson/PA Wire

Matt Doherty taking part in Ireland’s training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown on Monday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

After what was a disappointing start to life in an Ireland shirt under Stephen Kenny, Matt Doherty insists there is much better to come in Bratislava with the new manager encouraging every player to be brave and add to the team’s attacking threat in Thursday night’s playoff clash.

The Tottenham defender, who has been working hard to adapt to Jose Mourinho’s requirements at club level, admits that he and the rest of the Irish team came up short in September but believes that they are fitter and more focused on the task this time around.

He insists, meanwhile, that the players will be happy to embrace the manager’s belief that they “take more personal responsibility” for creating the situations in which the team can win this game.

“It’s going to be tough,” says the 28-year-old, “and everyone’s going to need to kind of dig in and put a shift in defensively and offensively.

“We obviously have a game plan, a way that we want to play, a way that we want to press, we want to defend, a way we want to attack. But at the end of the day, once you’re going forward, you’ve got to let people’s natural ability and talent kind of take over.

“We obviously have patterns of play but if someone wants to do something special and take a few people on and put the ball in the net, you’re obviously not going to say no.

“I think what he means in terms of taking responsibility is maybe ‘don’t pass it to somebody and let the ball go out wide and get a cross in that way, maybe take responsibility by beating a man and getting a shot off’. I hope that that is the case tomorrow, that we all take the game by the scruff of the neck and show people that we can actually beat them.”

The Dubliner accepts that things did not go to plan last month but echoes the view expressed by others that the lack of club games before the international window made everything, including the new manager’s methods, that little bit harder to deal with.

“The first camp was a bit difficult,” he acknowledges. “But there was many reasons why the games were the way they were last time. I don’t think we’ll be getting that type of performance again.

“A lot of us came in with no training really. I know a few people might have had a few training sessions, or games. Myself, I had absolutely nothing at all going into the games. Playing 90 minutes, you’re absolutely shattered afterwards.

“So it’s difficult to judge on that; it’s not going to happen overnight. It’ll take a few more training sessions to get the philosophy across but it’s already starting to come across in training and hopefully, it’ll click for us tomorrow night.”

With Séamus Coleman absent, Doherty is sure to start but his friend will, he insists, be rooting for him from a distance.

“When I play he is fully supportive and when he plays I am fully supportive,” he says. “We understand the situation that there is two of us that happen to be playing most of the time at big clubs and playing well so there is no animosity at all between us. We’re quite good friends, although,” he continues, breaking into laughter, “he didn’t answer my call last night so I don’t know what that was about.”

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