After his first day back on the training pitch as Ireland manager, Mick McCarthy has given a strong hint Matt Doherty will feature in an attacking right-flank role against Gibraltar.
Injuries to Callum O’Dowda, Alan Browne, and Ronan Curtis have all to be factored in to the manager’s planning and, with Seamus Coleman expected to start at right-full in a back four, the Wolves wing-back is very much in McCarthy’s thoughts for a berth on the right side of midfield.
“Matt Doherty could play there, he could,” McCarthy said yesterday.
“That conundrum has been thrown up because of injuries, of course. Robbie Brady could play there but he’s not been playing many minutes. Yeah, the Doc comes into consideration, I think, for that position.”
On how Burnley’s Brady is best deployed in a green shirt, McCarthy was unequivocal.
“Attacking. I think he could fill in there for me but I don’t see him as a left-back, no. I see him on either side, left or right to be honest. I spoke to him yesterday about his fitness and he just said he had been quite a long time getting back but he says he is as fit as he has been in a long time at the moment but just can’t get in the team.
That’s up to Dychey, ask Sean whether he wants to put him in the team. He’s fit, though. He is fit and he is okay.”
McCarthy also said that he’s not discounting an active role for late call-up Jack Byrne of Shamrock Rovers.
“Normally when there’s been a 30-odd man squad and someone’s not been in it, you’d think he’s somewhat down the pecking order. But just looking at him today, technically he’s very good. I had a chat with him and he’s buzzing, he loves being in.
And he doesn’t look out of place so we’ll see in training. I’m not discounting him.
“He deserves it. I could have gone with the same old, same old, I could have gone back to someone who’s been in the squad and brought him in.
Having seen him on Friday night (against Sligo Rovers in Tallaght), I thought he was excellent. I was trying to work out where he was playing. I think he started on the right but was never there, he flits around, gets on the ball, he’s one of them that likes the ball all the time. His passing range was great.
“Robbie (Keane) had said that before and I knew that
because he’s been about a bit. Why he’s not settled at any club before is beyond me. He’s very, very talented and he looks like he’s got the bit between his teeth, I think. He’ll have tougher tests than he had on Friday night but he really was very, very good.”
At the other end of the experience scale in international football, Glenn Whelan continues to impress McCarthy, the manager even suggesting the veteran could, if required, feature both away to Gibraltar and at home to Georgia.
“I don’t doubt he can play the games. I think he’s remarkable. Is he 35 now? He’s playing and he doesn’t look like the old man on the pitch, that’s for sure. He looks like an experienced player. I’ve not seen anything in him that suggests to me he can’t cope with it. He’s playing in the Championship as well where they have to go Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday.
“I don’t know how many times he’s done that but he’s ok, he’s fit.”
Whelan would be one of those, you suspect, who would be most susceptible to the effects of playing on Gibraltar’s artificial turf, an experience for which McCarthy’s squad will begin preparations today.
“We won’t be having a full scale game on it or anything like that,” he clarified.
“It does have an effect. We’ll be using it to pass the ball, to take free kicks and corners and get a feel of it. And we’ll be training on it on Friday of course.”
And the very next day, the serious business of Euro 2020 qualification will begin, with McCarthy solely focused on getting three points against the minnows.
“I’m not getting wrapped up in getting a glut of goals because they will make it very, very difficult,” he said. “I think playing well (is important) but it’s really important that we win. My remit surely with eight qualifying games is to win as many points as I can. And nobody has ever complained when we’re winning. So if we can play well and win it would be better, but I’ll settle for winning.”