Bat­tling Do­herty lives the dream at last

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Football - By Steve Made­ley

Matt Do­herty is not a man to give up eas­ily. So whether it is prov­ing to him­self he can cut it in the Premier League or chang­ing the mind of Martin O’Neill, the Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers de­fender will guar­an­tee per­sis­tence at the very least.

This is, af­ter all, some­one who re­fused to be de­terred by re­jec­tions from English clubs num­ber­ing in the teens be­fore Wolves of­fered him the chance to move from his na­tive Ire­land.

And Do­herty is not afraid, ei­ther, of tak­ing a chance, hav­ing given up on school early to chase his dream of be­com­ing a pro­fes­sional foot­baller.

Had his gam­ble back­fired, he might have re­mained as his fa­ther Tom’s go­pher in his car­pet clean­ing busi­ness. In­stead, the 26-year-old is liv­ing his dream, which con­tin­ues at home to Burn­ley to­day in a game in which Nuno Espir­ito Santo’s side will be favourites. “I was at 14 or 15 dif­fer­ent clubs when I was younger and I didn’t that well when I was away,” Do­herty re­calls. “There was a lot of dis­ap­point­ment as a kid. Then a pre­sea­son game [Bo­hemi­ans, his Ir­ish club, v Wolves] changed ev­ery­thing.

“I had left school to go on so many tri­als. There was no point in me go­ing to school be­cause I was al­ways away. It was a risk at the time and it looked like it had back­fired for a few years. I was work­ing for my dad and we were in the van all the time hav­ing talks. We would say maybe if I play League of Ire­land and maybe get across when I was 21, but it has worked out since.”

Even af­ter join­ing Wolves in 2010, Do­herty did not al­ways have it easy. He had loan spells at Hiber­nian and Bury, played out of po­si­tion at left-back and suf­fered Premier League and Cham­pi­onship rel­e­ga­tions.

But when Nuno ar­rived last sum­mer he moved Do­herty to a wing-back role and the player has flour­ished.

How­ever, O’Neill has yet to hand him a start for the Repub­lic of Ire­land and re­cently claimed Do­herty needed to “drive for­wards” more of­ten. Do­herty is guarded with his re­sponse, but the sit­u­a­tion is a clear source of frus­tra­tion. “I’ve been around the squads since 2016 but I’ve only picked up three caps, all off the bench for a few min­utes,” he said. “I’d like a lot more caps and a few more starts. When I first joined up, it was my de­fend­ing that was the prob­lem. Now it’s my at­tack­ing. Maybe my face just doesn’t fit.”

At Mo­lineux, though, Do­herty has found his niche, keep­ing his place af­ter a sum­mer of big spend­ing. Not that the man him­self is tak­ing Premier League foot­ball for granted yet. “My dream was al­ways to play in the Premier League,” he said. “I’ve only played four games. I feel there’s a lot more to come.”

Wolves Burn­ley

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