Patient Matt Doherty aiming to grasp his opportunity with the Republic
Defender has proved a model of consistency for Championship leaders Wolves
Matt Doherty in action for the Republic of Ireland against Turkey in Antalya. “There are a lot of new players in the squad and it is an opportunity.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Matt Doherty has had to wait a while for his international debut but, having lived life in the shadows a little over the past few seasons, the 26-year-old is hoping his time with Ireland might finally have come.
Doherty, who was signed by Wolves from Bohemians after impressing in a preseason friendly back in 2010, established himself at the English outfit back more than five years ago and has played a couple of hundred first-team games since.
There were some turbulent times for the club since then, though, including a stint in League One and his breakthrough at international level has only eventually come as Nuno Espirito Santo’s side sits six points clear at the top of the table and are strong favourites to win promotion to the Premier League.
The Dubliner, who can play as a full back on either side and has experience of midfield too, has been a firm fixture during what has been a very good campaign with more than 40 appearance and the occasional goal, including two in the recent 3-0 defeat of Reading.
At international level, though, he has been found himself behind Seamus Coleman, Cyrus Christie, and Stephen Ward for his preferred positions but hopes to get more of a look in after having come on for the Irish captain and performed quite well in Antalya on Friday night.
“It’s never easy for anyone coming off the bench and picking up the pace of the game, but I really enjoyed it, it went quick,” he says of his debut. “The way I play with my club is with intensity and getting forward and I tried to put myself around. I got into a few decent positions.”
The hope now, he says, is to make the most of the opportunity he seems certain to get at top flight level in England to move in from the margins with Ireland.
“Growing up, everyone wants to play for their country,” says the defender who previously featured at U-19 and Ur-21 levels. “It helps that I’m playing in a team which looks like it will be playing in the Premier League next season. We’ve got eight games left and we’re in a really strong position. That gives you a lot of confidence playing in a team full of very good players.”
“Without being cocky, we’ve just been the best. Even the boys [in the Ireland squad], speaking to them, they agree we’ve been the best team. Credit to the manager, the players they’ve brought in, they’re all down-to-earth guys with no egos . . . considering they’ve come from good club such as Porto and Atletico and Champions League football. It’s all just come together, the formation, the players on the bench, everything has worked and it’s an exciting time to be part of the club.
“I think anything is possible [next season],” he continues. “The backing they have from the Chinese owners is incredible. I wouldn’t be surprised if they spend a lot of money in the summer if we go up. Not that we need to, I think our squad now could do well anyway. But the Premier League, everyone is desperate to stay there, so they probably will splash a bit of cash.”
He should benefit from being there, testing himself against some of the best players in the world but he will also, he reckons, be better off for having spent a bit more time now in and around Martin O’Neill’s squad.
“I’ve been in a few times now and I feel comfortable in the surroundings. I know most of the lads now. It’s a big start for me now.
“There are a lot of new players in the squad and it is an opportunity. Anyone who is playing well should see it as an opportunity to get in.”