Doherty eyes Ireland begins to prove fit for Conte

Matt Doherty is hoping he can return to the Tottenham squad by showing his level for Ireland against Scotland and Armenia.

The right-back enjoyed a long spell with Tottenham starting in the second half of last season, but Doherty picked up an injury in April and missed the end of the season.

Dublin was also missing out on Ireland’s four international matches in June, and while he has discovered his fitness throughout the start of the current Premier League season, he is yet to run out with Antonio Conte’s side.

And while match fitness could be an issue, Doherty claims he’s ready to go on Saturday at Hampden Park, considering his intense pre-season training and daily training with the north London club.

Doherty also revealed that Conte had given him his blessing to leave and played two international matches in order to re-fit some matches to boost his club’s chances.

“I feel ready to start,” Doherty said in an interview with the media on Tuesday. “We’re training hard at club level and if the matches don’t start, you’re ready to start, even if you’re not on the bench.

“That’s exactly what he said,” Doherty said when asked if Conte wanted him to play in international matches.

“He wants me to go away and try two games, he kind of said in his press conference that I’d be available after the entire international break to pick. That’s kind of a plan, if Stephen obeys him!”

It has been well documented how much focus Spurs are placing on the condition of their players, and while Doherty thought he was ready to go in pre-season, his manager expressed skepticism to the player in this regard. And Doherty admitted that Conte was, in fact, right.

“I feel really fit now,” Doherty explained. “Maybe it took a little longer than expected. I was pretty much available all pre-season but didn’t move well.

“I understand where the manager came from, and where he thought I was in good shape and that he was right at the end of the day.

“I know he trusts me, I know that once I’m back again, he knows what I can do for him and once he thinks I’m available, I’m sure he’ll give me more time.

“Like I said, in the past three or four weeks, I’ve started to feel really good again. I just kind of do more things without having to think about it, find my confidence in training.

“I’m the type to defend. We’re training hard at club level, so I think fitness won’t be an issue for me in the two matches.”

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Doherty had to watch the summer series on TV, and while he admitted he was nervous before the Scotland game, after the defeats to Armenia and Ukraine, he believes confidence has now been instilled in the team, which bodes very well. For upcoming games and the future Euro 2024 campaign.

“The first few matches were obviously tough, but they didn’t go well,” Doherty said. “I was a little nervous before watching the Scotland game. But the players played incredibly, kind of stunned them.

“I knew it was a performance they had in them. It was good to end the summer the way we did.

Seamus Coleman and Matt Doherty will compete for the right-back position

“Honestly, I think the confidence is really high all the time. We’ve had very good training, our game plan almost always, so the confidence is there from the setup we have, the faith they give us.

“I think maybe at the beginning of the referee, when the coach first came in, he was trying to find confidence in the players, but since then, everyone has been at their best and ready to play for him.

“Of course, you always strive for consistency. We want to win every game we play; we look at the matches we have and think they are matches that can be won.

“We trust each other, the management, the players, all the staff we trust and we trust each other. We will try to win both games.”

Looking beyond the current campaign and into next year and the qualifying campaign for Euro 2024, Doherty admits that time may be running out for some of the team to reach a major tournament.

“There are a lot of us at this age where there may not be many opportunities to get back into serious competition,” Doherty said. “Some of us have never been, including me.

“We are very focused. We have a specific goal that we want to achieve, and I think we are capable.

“I know people might not think that’s the case, but I feel like I know football. I know how good the players are, how much they listen to the manager.

“I think we can achieve something, yes.”

Follow the Republic of Ireland vs Scotland match on Saturday (kick-off at 7.45pm) via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/Sports and the RTÉ News app, watch live on RTÉ 2 and RTÉ Player, or listen to national radio commentary on RTÉ Radio 1