A year ago, few people had heard of Gary Doherty outside Luton, even though he’d just completed his dream move to Spurs. Six months ago little had changed as he grafted away in the reserves. Now he’ll spearhead Ireland’s attack in the game that could all-but book their place in the World Cup finals.
Big ‘Doc’ is set to start Ireland’s massive qualifying match against Portugal at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
Victory would leave Mick McCarthy’s men six points clear of Portugal with only three games remaining.
Gary, a fixture in the Spurs side since January, admitted: "If we’re going to make it then this is a big one for us. Even if we draw we’ll have given ourselves a great chance.
"We’ve still a tough game in Estonia but we’ve already proved we can beat them.
"It’s there for us and it’s in our hands now. With any luck we’ll be able to pull it off and we’ll deserve it because we’re in the hardest group.
"It’s the toughest group of all the qualifiers and to be top of it at the moment is a real achievement."
But Gary knows better than to take anything for granted against Portugal.
"They are a class act," he said. "It will be different to Andorra, who just sat in and let us attack.
"Portugal will open up more with the likes of Rui Costa, Figo, they have some great players and it would be a privilege to play against them.
"I don’t even want to think of the possibility of being involved in the World Cup finals. It would be so special. If we do hopefully I’ll stay in and around the squad and prove to Mick McCarthy that I’m worth a place on the plane."
Ireland are 13/8 to win the game with Doherty 12/1 to open the scoring - click here for details.
Gary Doherty is set to lead the Republic of Ireland attack in their toughest assignment of the World Cup qualifying group two campaign.