At 26 you could argue that Matt Doherty has being on the scene for sometime. Certainly in footballing terms. Yet, despite this, he is yet to make a competitive appearance for the Republic Of Ireland. The explosive Wolves full back has only featured in three games for the Irish. They were in friendlies and as a non-starter.
The Dubliner played schoolboy football at Home Farm and then Belvedere. Home Farm were always a club famed for helping to produce Ireland internationals one of them being former Leeds right back Gary Kelly. While still a teenager Doherty was snapped up by Irish league side Bohemians in the 2009/10 season. Remarkably he never played a competitive game for the club. Having impressed in a friendly against the Molineux outfit, Matt put pen to paper in a fee reported to be 40,000 (Euro).
The Irishman would spent a couple of seasons out on loan despite making his debut for Wolves in a FA Cup game against Doncaster in January of 2012. In September of that year he joined Hibernian in Scotland were he made 17 appearances for the Edinburgh club. The following season he was back south with Bury were he would make 22 appearances. Unfortunately due to financial issues, the English club were forced to cut the loan short in January, as a result Doherty returned to the midlands. From that point on however he would go on to make the right back slot his own at Wolves, but in 2013 they would be relegated to league one.
Playing in the lower leagues and playing regular football may have been key too the development of the player. He managed to win a League One medal and Wolves would return to the Championship. But it’s in the last season and into this season were Doherty has shifted up the gears. In the clubs march to the league title in the Championship last season, Matt excelled. With super agent Jorge Mendes having a huge influence at the club since 2016 money was spent. Using his contacts to bring in a lot of Portuguese talent, may have scuppered the chances of the likes of Matt Doherty from moving along with the ambitions of the club. However Doherty has clearly embraced this and is revelling in the current setup under manager ‘Nuno’.
Wolves have taken to the Premier League like a duck to water so far. After eight games they lie seventh in the table. With stars in their side such as the experienced Joao Moutinho and the huge talent of young Ruben Neves producing. However, the premier league player of the month award for September did not go to any of those players. It did not go to powerhouses like Sergio Aguero, Harry Kane or the in-form Eden Hazard. It went to Matt Doherty. A huge statement in itself. Just in time for Ireland’s upcoming Nations Cup games against Denmark and Wales. With Seamus Coleman injured once more, this is surely his opportunity. In an interview last month Doherty questioned whether his face was the right fit within the current setup. Martin O’Neill has since suggested that the issues were more to do with Seamus Coleman occupying the right back slot.
So far this season, Matt Doherty has made eight appearances in the league for Wolves. He has scored one goal and made two assists. Under Marco Silva, Coleman has made four appearances due to injury. He is yet to make an assist or hit the back of the net. The Everton man is a more aggressive player off the ball than his Wolves counterpart. It is no surprise that he has wracked up 3.8 tackles, and 1.8 interceptions on average per game this season. Whilst also completing three clearances on average per game. Despite playing more games Doherty has weighed in with 1.6 tackles, 1.4 interceptions and 2.3 clearances on average per game.
It is the attacking areas were Doherty impresses much more than Coleman. Both players play for managers that have similar philosophies on how to play the game. Largely an attacking approach. So both would be encouraged to burst forward and provide overlaps. Doherty provides 1.5 shots and 1.3 key passes on average per game. Very impressive stuff. Seamus on the other hand manages on average 1 shot and 0.3 key passes per game. So perhaps the Everton man is a little safer in possession of the ball. The statistics generally show that Coleman is better defensively but Doherty has the upper-hand offensively.
The statistics also may give a possible solution to Martin’s apparent conundrum. When the Irish boss has Coleman and Doherty fit, it is likely that O’Neill’s captain will slot back into the right back position. But perhaps he could deploy Doherty on the right hand side of midfield. For Wolves, he is essentially playing as a wing-back. He is quick, dynamic and is very proactive in the final third. Furthermore he would be willing to track back to support Seamus and have that understanding on how to do so. Judging by his statistics and style play the Wolves star could well be suited as a right midfielder in the national setup
On form Matt Doherty is the nations most consistent player at club level. He has shown he can be consistent in a good side playing at the highest level. At 26, he has completed his apprenticeship and has fought his way up through the leagues and continues to be a key part of Wolverhampton’s evolution as a club. With all the clamour over Declan Rice, perhaps Ireland have forgotten about a top talent that is available to them right now. It would be a major shock, if the flying full back isn’t part of the Republics starting eleven for the competitive date with Denmark this coming Saturday evening. The wait for a competitive start is surely imminent.