Spurs star Doherty ’embarrassed’ by Republic of Ireland form

Will Ford

Matt Doherty has urged the Republic of Ireland to battle their way out of an “embarrassing” slump.

Thursday’s 3-0 friendly defeat by England at Wembley extended Ireland’s winless run under new manager Stephen Kenny to six games, and they have not tasted victory in nine since beating Bulgaria in September last year.

That sequence includes last month’s penalty shoot-out defeat in Slovakia which ended the Republic’s Euro 2020 finals dreams, and while Kenny’s plans to introduce a more progressive style of play have been disrupted by coronavirus and injuries, Doherty insists it is time to stand up and be counted.

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Asked if the more experienced members of the squad needed to put an arm around the newcomers, the Tottenham full-back replied: “Everybody here, they’re young, but we’re men at the end of the day.

“You can’t just mollycoddle everybody. It’s just not going to work out that way, you have to be a bit ruthless, you have to be ultra-focused all the time.

“At the end of the day, it’s international football. We’re not playing kids’ football here.

“Yes, maybe the odd time you can put your arm around somebody, but at the end of the day we have to learn ourselves and we have to just go out on the pitch with full concentration, full focus and be men and take it on and see how we get on.”

Misfortune has blighted Kenny, who lost Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah hours before kick-off in Slovakia after a positive Covid-19 test in the camp, and then four more players on the squad’s return from Bratislava, during the early months of his reign.

His run of luck showed few signs of improving in the run-up to the game at Wembley when Callum Robinson tested positive to join the injured Enda Stevens and Connolly on the sidelines, soon to be followed by skipper Seamus Coleman after he aggravated a hamstring problem and midfielder James McCarthy for family reasons.

It is a lack of goals, however, which is of greater concern with Ireland having managed just one in Kenny’s six games to date and two in the last nine.

That is a return which will have to improve in the Nations League fixtures against Wales and Bulgaria if they are to accumulate the seeding points they need to avoid an even more difficult World Cup qualifying draw.

Asked if it currently feels like they are beaten once they concede, Doherty said: “No, I wouldn’t say so. For me personally, I don’t think like that at all.

“But obviously it kind of looks that way because we’re not getting back into any games. It’s just frustrating.

“Look, it’s disappointing, it’s a bit embarrassing. I feel embarrassed sometimes when I come off the pitch because we’re just losing games and not scoring goals and conceding goals, so it’s not nice.”