Mick McCarthy has defended his decision not to play Wolves wing back Matt Doherty in Ireland’s last two games, but admits he ‘loves’ him.
The 27-year-old was forced to sit out the 1-1 draw away to Denmark and the 2-0 win against Gibraltar, with captain Seamus Coleman preferred at right back and Ireland manager McCarthy reluctant to give Doherty another chance at wide right.
The former Wolves boss brought Doherty to Molineux in 2010 from Bohemians and he has gone on to play 252 times in gold and black. McCarthy stressed he remains a big admirer of a player he paid £70,000 for, but prefers Everton defender Seamus Coleman at right back and believes Callum Robinson is better going forwards in the wing slot.
“It’s a ridiculous assessment of it,” said McCarthy, in answer to a query which suggesting Doherty was the fall-guy for Ireland’s struggles against Gibraltar the first time around. “In my opinion Seamus is the best right back. I think Matt is a fabulous right back but unfortunately for him, I think Seamus is a better one.
“I can’t say anything other than that or give you any other reasons. I really love Matt Doherty. I signed him at Wolves, he’s had a great career. But, my preference is…you know sometimes I’m telling players ‘You’re not playing today’ and it’s hard. (Then they ask) ‘Why not?’ ‘Do you know what? It’s my preference.’ That’s what it is and the manager has to have it.
“At this moment in time why would I leave Seamus out? But it’s always about someone who doesn’t play. And the other thing about Seamus is, he’s a fabulous personality and the captain of the team. It’s just difficult, you know.”
Ireland legend Liam Brady questioned McCarthy’s decision to leave out a man he says is arguably the country’s ‘best player’, and believes a place should be found for Doherty.
The Wolves man, who scored eight goals and provided eight assists from wing back in 2018-19, said he would like to try operating alongside Coleman again. When McCarthy was asked if he could have played Doherty on the right side of midfield, the 60-year-old instead questioned what was wrong with Callum Robinson’s display in Monday’s hard-fought 2-0 win over the minnows.
“Who do you think was the best player on the pitch?” he said, with a reference to Preston midfielder Robinson. “Why not talk about him instead of putting Matt Doherty in that position?
“Callum Robinson is an attacker. Matt isn’t an attacker, he’s a right wing back and he is a brillant right wing back for Wolves, but unfortunately sometimes, the manager just thinks that there is somebody who is better in that position.”
Meanwhile, McCarthy insisted he has no intention of staying on beyond Euro 2020 if he succeeds in qualifying.
The former Millwall, Sunderland and Ipswich chief is due to be replaced by Stephen Kenny after Ireland’s interest in the competition ends under the terms of a succession plan agreed with the FAI which will see Stephen Kenny, the current Ireland Under-21s boss, succeed him.
Kenny has led the Under-21 side to the semi finals of the Toulon Tournament – they play Brazil on Wednesday – and he has a written agreement to take over the senior team.
Asked if he would look to start talks with the Irish board to see if the decision could be changed, McCarthy said: “I’m not looking to do that, that’s completely unfair. Stephen’s been doing great with the Under-21s. They are playing Brazil in the semi-final and to be asking me that question when there’s an agreement in place that it’s going to happen, that’s not really completely nice.
“I haven’t given it any thought. I’ve got four more games to try to qualify for Euro 2020 and I’m hoping that’s going to be the case. But if we get there and we do well and if that’s my last of it, I would be delighted, I’m cool. That’s my agreement at the moment.”