Football/Soccer

Stephen Kenny backs inconsistent Matt Doherty ahead of Hungary friendly

Republic of Ireland's Matt Doherty has received solid backing from his manager

International friendly: Hungary v Republic of Ireland (tonight, Ferenc Szusza Stadium, 7pm)

REPUBLIC of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny has leapt to the defence of Matt Doherty ahead of tonight’s international friendly with Hungary in Budapest.

The defender has struggled to find the smooth rhythm in his game since moving from Wolves to Spurs and has produced a string of introverted performances for his country.

Indeed, Doherty's best game under Kenny was arguably against Wales in the Nations League tie in Dublin last year when he was forced to play as a centre back.

Despite his perceived dip in form in the green jersey, his manager gave him solid backing ahead of tonight’s clash.

“He was unfortunate in the last camp. He’s had a little bit of a hamstring issue and obviously it went in the Luxembourg game after 20 minutes and he tried to play on but had to come off at half-time,” said Kenny.

“I think Matt has played quite well. I think he’s played well in the games overall. He combined well with Jason Knight in the second half the other night [against Andorra] and I wouldn’t have any complaints about Matt’s performances at all.

“He’s really been good this week with the whole group and had a really good input… I think what hurt Matt during the year was getting COVID at that time because he had played against Slovakia and played really well and played centre back against Wales when all the other players were ruled out on the morning of the match and we had to change the whole team. He ended up playing centre half and was terrific in that match. He got man-of-the-match and he played in Finland and did fine.

“He was just unfortunate to get COVID in the next camp because it really knocked him for six and he lost his club place because of it. That was rather unfortunate, but I think overall he’s performed well for Ireland."

Tonight’s game is expected to be played in front of a 14,000 capacity crowd in the Hungarian capital as the home side’s supporters bid their team good luck ahead of this month’s Euro 2020 finals.

Hungary face the daunting prospect of playing three of the favourites Portugal, France and Germany in the finals and without the precociously talented 20-year-old Dominik Szoboszlai, who misses out through injury.

“In a way, it’s a bit of a carnival for them, full house, which is amazing. We want to make sure we perform well in this game. That’s important for us,” Kenny said, who recorded his first victory as senior manager against Andorra last Thursday.

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Football/Soccer