“Maybe my face just doesn’t fit.”
Matt Doherty was one of the few Premier League players in the Republic of Ireland squad last week. Martin O’Neill named just eight players from the English top flight in his squad and only six of them started the 4-1 loss against Wales in the Uefa Nations League game.
Ireland captain Seamus Coleman plays in Doherty’s position, so few were expecting him to start the match in Cardiff.
But Coleman wasn’t part of the squad for a friendly against Poland a few days later, after picking up an injury, and O’Neill still didn’t start the Wolves wing-back.
Cyrus Christie was picked at right wing-back and Doherty was only used as a second-half substitute, playing the final 36 minutes.
O’Neill has frequently lamented the lack of Irish Premier League players available to him. So, the decision not to start Doherty left many perplexed. Especially as the team played with wing-backs on the night.
According to Paul Rowan, writing in The Sunday Times, there have been suggestions that the Ireland manager isn’t too keen on Doherty. It has been suggested that O’Neill doesn’t like that Doherty wears gloves and tights when training in cold weather.
“He has mentioned the gloves. I wear them because it’s cold,” Doherty said.
“When I first went out he had a joke about the gloves, nothing too serious. I don’t know. Ask him.”
The 26-year-old has impressed for Wolves over the last few seasons. The former Bohemians defender helped them secure promotion to the Premier League last season and has started every game for them in the top-flight this campaign.
The newly-promoted team spent big during the summer and have the resources to replace Doherty. Yet, their manager Nuno Espirito Santo evidently rates him, and he is the club’s first-choice right wing-back.
However, it seems as though he is Ireland’s third choice to start at right-back, behind Coleman and Christie.
O’Neill has mentioned that he wants Doherty to drive forward with the ball, rather than check back inside and pass into midfield. The Dubliner seems to feel that, regardless of what he does on the field, he just doesn’t appear to be in the plans of the Ireland manager.
“I know he’s said he would like me to attack more. Maybe I’ll do that. When I first joined up it was my defending that was the problem. Now it’s my attacking. Maybe my face just doesn’t fit.”
“I’ve been around the squads since 2016 but I’ve only picked up three caps, all off the bench for a few minutes. I’d like a lot more caps and a few more starts,” Doherty told The Telegraph.
With Coleman set to miss next month’s matches against Denmark and Wales in Dublin, it will be interesting to see if Doherty is given his chance in a competitive game for Ireland.