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Matt Doherty happy to switch flanks to solve Ireland’s left-back dilemma

The 27-year-old has been in competition with skipper Seamus Coleman for a place.

Republic of Ireland defender Matt Doherty is ready to line up on the left in Georgia (Brian Lawless/PA)
Republic of Ireland defender Matt Doherty is ready to line up on the left in Georgia (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Damian Spellman, PA

Matt Doherty is ready to step into the breach as the Republic of Ireland attempt to take a significant stride towards Euro 2020 qualification in Georgia.

The 27-year-old Wolves defender has found himself in direct competition with Ireland captain Seamus Coleman for a starting place on the right since catapulting himself into contention with his club form in the Premier League.

However, he is the leading candidate to replace the suspended Enda Stevens at left-back in Tbilisi on Saturday evening, and will have no qualms about doing so.

Asked if he would be happy to play there, Doherty said: “Yes, of course. I’m totally comfortable playing in that position. I played two seasons there for Wolves – one and a half seasons, maybe, it was – so it would be nothing new to me.

“If that is the case, then yes, I’ll enjoy it and grab the opportunity with both hands.”

The role is not totally alien to Doherty, who had an extended spell at left-back for Wolves before the arrival of current boss Nuno Espirito Santo, and while he admits there are subtle differences, he is confident he has what it takes to do the job.

Questioned about the last time he lined up on the left, he said: “About three years ago, probably. Probably before Nuno was the the manager, and at the start of that season, probably more than anything, so it has been a while.

I know some people might think it's just right-back, left-back, just go over the other side, but positionally and things like that, there are differences Matt Doherty

“But I guess we’re professional and I’ll be able to adapt. It is different. I know some people might think it’s just right-back, left-back, just go over the other side, but positionally and things like that, there are differences.

“But I’m not concerned by that. I know that I’ll be able to adapt to it and if that’s the case, then it shouldn’t really be a problem and I should be able to play just almost as well as I can on the other side.”

Doherty has had to remain patient on the international front since making his debut as a substitute in a 1-0 friendly defeat in Turkey in March 2018, adding only six caps since, one of them in a failed experiment when he was asked to play in a midfield role ahead of Coleman in Gibraltar in Ireland’s opening Euro 2020 qualifier.

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Matt Doherty (left) has had to bide his time for a chance to impress at international level (Tim Goode/PA)

However, he sees his versatility as an asset rather than a curse.

He said: “It just means if I can’t get into the team in one position, I might be able to get in at another. You’re still in the team and that would be the most important thing. As long as you’re in the team, you’re happy.”

Should Doherty get the nod for Saturday’s game, he will do so with Mick McCarthy’s men sitting top of Group D and knowing a win in Georgia would send them into their final two fixtures – Switzerland in Geneva on Tuesday evening and Denmark in Dublin next month – with every chance of qualifying for next summer’s finals.

He said: “It will go a long way towards qualification, so we need to really focus and concentrate on the next two games and hopefully bring the form from previous games into these and get some points.”

PA

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