With the Ireland squad picked, plenty of people think Seamus Coleman should be back in the side ahead of Matt Doherty.
There weren’t too many surprises as Stephen Kenny named his squad for the European Championship play-off against Slovakia next Thursday but the Irish manager did provide some insights into the ongoing debate between who should start in the Ireland team, Seamus Coleman or Matt Doherty?
In terms of the squad, Troy Parrott is out injured, there’s a first call up for Jack Byrne and Derrick Williams under the new manager.
Prior to Kenny’s first two games in charge, the major selection issue for the Ireland manager was between Seamus Coleman and Matt Doherty.
After Coleman’s solid start for the Toffees, that topic is once again up for debate.
In terms of Doherty’s qualities, with 15 goals and 15 assists in the past two seasons, the Spurs defender is second only to Trent Alexander-Arnold as the Premier League’s most productive right-back/right wing-back.
Last season, his form was definitely better than Coleman’s.
However, the Everton defender has started this season brilliantly – he even drew comparisons to Paolo Maldini from Carlo Ancelotti – and throughout his Ireland career, Coleman has never let the side down.
Aside from this, the former Sligo Rovers man has consistently set the standard for others to match. That’s why he’s held the captain’s armband for so long.
Given Kenny’s preference to play four at the back, it appears that the former Derry City and Bohemians manager still has the same selection headache but given the Everton man’s form, a tough choice has to be made between Matt Doherty and Seamus Coleman.
“Listen, these are good problems to have. These are problems that we want. We don’t have that situation in every position and we are pleased that several players are playing regularly in their first-teams. I think it’s a lot different than a month ago when the players were in pre-season and hadn’t played games. Seamus is in fine form and that’s a good sign,” said Kenny.
Later in the press conference, the Irish manager was asked if he’s now facing a situation where he has to find a way to include both players in his starting XI.
“No, I’m not in any position to do anything. We’ll do what we feel is right for the game itself. I think that’s the key. They’re both versatile players and they’re both huge assets to Ireland,” he said.
Given the seismic importance of the one-legged play-off against Slovakia, qualification for Euro 2020 hangs in the balance but if Ireland are successful, another away match against the winners of Bosnia and Herzegovina vs Northern Ireland awaits.
When asked in the press conference if this selection dilemma has put him in a tough situation – by starting Doherty, people might complain that Coleman is the form player but if he drops Doherty, people might say that Kenny’s guilty of being indecisive – the former Dundalk manager had this to say.
“What anyone else thinks is irrelevant, that’s how I view it. Seamus has been a great captain for Ireland and a great player, he’s obviously started the season well. Matt finished the season brilliantly with Wolves, he scored quite a few goals and created even more. Obviously, with the last games for us, he was in pre-season mode and he’s coming back a bit now. I thought his best game for Tottenham was last week, he looked back to himself and did very well. That bodes well.”
After a draw in Bulgaria and a defeat to Finland, Ireland will be desperate for victory against Slovakia.
After the game in Bratislava, the boys in green will be looking to improve their Nations League standing when they face Wales at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, October 11. Kenny’s side will end the international window with a game away to Finland on October 14.
The squad will assemble in Dublin on Sunday and train at the FAI’s National Training Centre in Abbotstown before flying to Slovakia on Tuesday.