Matt Doherty keen to "find a solution" to indifferent international form
European Championships 2021 semi-final play-off: Slovakia Republic of Ireland (tonight, Bratislava, 7.45pm)
MATT Doherty says it’s up to him to “find a solution” to ensure his international performances match those five-star displays he’s strung together at club level over the past few seasons as he prepares for tonight’s make-or-break Euro play-off showdown with Slovakia.
Tottenham’s new £16m signing readily admits he hasn’t always produced his best form in the green jersey.
“I don’t necessarily have a problem with that [analysis],” said the 28-year-old Dubliner. “The Denmark game [in Dublin last October] would be the type of performance you’d normally get at club level [from me].
“I guess we play differently [at international level], we probably don’t have as much of the ball as we do at club level. [But] It’s up to me to find a solution, it’s up to me to find a way to bring out my best game when I put on the Ireland jersey.
“It’s nobody else’s fault, there’s no-one to blame for that. I need to find the path to bring out my best game here.”
Doherty’s form for Wolves was exceptional for the past number of years before making a solid start at Spurs – and it was those club performances that enabled him to edge out Seamus Coleman for the right back slot at the start of Stephen Kenny’s senior tenure.
Doherty, though, couldn’t find his best form in last month’s Nations League games against Bulgaria and Finland and only for Seamus Coleman’s untimely hamstring injury, there might have been calls for the Donegal man to be restored to the back four.
But possession is nine-tenths of the law and Doherty will look to make the position his own against the Slovaks tonight.
And even though Slovakia are playing at home, Doherty feels the dynamic of tonight’s one-off play-off semi-final could well suit the Irish.
“I guess that could benefit us as well, like the Denmark game, which was a must-win game,” said Doherty, who earns just his 12th cap tonight.
“I know we drew the game but it was one of our best performances in a long time. When it’s make-or-break it might bring out the best in us. You could say it’s the same for them but with them at home they might be a bit bothered that they have no fans there, so we’ll try everything and anything to our advantage and get the job done.
“I have belief in the players that are here for us to get through to the final game. I’d back these players all the way - we’re good enough to get the job done.”
With tonight’s tie played to a finish, Doherty says he would definitely put himself forward to take a penalty should it go to a shoot-out in Bratislava.
“If they let me I’d definitely take one. We’ve been practising penalties for about a month now. I’ve been taking penalties after training, so I’d definitely be one to take responsibility, it’s something I’d be up for. I’ve never kept my hand down - if I was asked to take one my hand would be straight up.”
Both teams are allowed to make five substitutes in normal time and a further sixth one in extra-time. This is due to the long lay-off players have faced and to try and reduce the risk of injury that players would be prone to because of the enforced break. VAR will also be in use.
One of the team’s driving forces, Doherty says, is the prospect of playing in Dublin at next summer’s delayed finals.
“Over the last three or four years things have gone almost perfectly for me, and I wouldn’t really change anything,” he said.
“So if this was to happen [qualification] it would be pretty special, especially with games being in Dublin and hopefully fans at games at that stage. The atmosphere in the country would be electric. It would be pretty flat if Ireland weren’t there but it would be pretty magical if that was the case.”
He added: “We’ve done our homework on Slovakia. We’ll be well educated on them. We’ll obviously respect them to a point and when we have the ball we’ve got to express ourselves and play to win because you only get one shot at it now, so we’ll be good to go tomorrow night.”