Stephen Kenny must choose between Seamus Coleman and Matt Doherty for the right wing-back role for Ireland against Portugal on Thursday – with the loser playing against Luxembourg this day week. The Irish boss does not want to over-burden either man as the ill-fated 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign comes to an end with this week’s two games. “Séamus is our captain, our leader, captain of his club and his country and he’s been brilliant for us,” said the Ireland manager. “ “But he has had serious hamstring issues. Grade 2 and 3 injuries over the last while based on playing games in close proximity – so I think we’ve just got to try to look at that.” However, the boss of the Boys in Green has plenty of praise for Doherty too, who is getting used to a new style at Tottenham under Antonio Conte. Drove “Matt, against Serbia in September, was the one who drove us on, I felt, when we were up against it. “He got crosses in late, one led to the corner that led to the throw in from which we forced the OG. “Matt showed there and was terrific in that game. He played very well in Azerbaijan too.” But Doherty too has missed matches. “He had a little hamstring issue after the Qatar match and missed 10 days. But I prefer to look at it all in terms of building a squad,” added the manager. “Take the Nations League schedule next June, we’ve four games in 12 days. I don’t think Séamus or Matt can do (all) that. “Matt’s had that little issue with picking up hamstrings, that minor issue twice against Luxembourg and then Qatar, when playing the second game of a quite intense period. “On one hand, maybe you can say they are competing against each other but on the other hand, you can say they are competing with each other to make us better. And that is what we must have, as we go on.” Barring losing against Luxembourg, Kenny will surely be given the nod by the FAI to carry on as Ireland’s leader for the Euro 2024 qualifiers. But a winter World Cup Finals next year mean those contests don’t start until March of 2023, so when the final whistle blows in Luxembourg next Sunday night Ireland’s footballers and manager have a 16-month wait for an international qualifier. It is little wonder, thus, that last month Kenny challenged his players to win our Nations League group next year which will consist of four games in June and two at the end of September. It gives the team something to aim for, and aim at, during the long gap waiting for the Euro qualifying to kick-off. “The Nations League is turning into a great competition,” he said in response. “The semi-finals and finals that were on over the last two years for the top teams were great little mini-tournaments.
Source: Sport Soccer-.Independent