Harry Arter wants to earn right to make himself heard

Harry Arter’s Plan B when a thigh injury ruled him out of last year’s European Championships was a holiday in Marbella with a bunch of mates followed by a stint in Barcelona with his partner.

Harry Arter wants to earn right to make himself heard

Both are destinations beloved by generations of sun-seeking Irish tourists and yet Arter wasn’t exactly swamped by hordes of green-clad fans watching the Republic of Ireland go about their business across the border in France.

“There was a few in Marbella, but none of them noticed me,’ he says.

It’s a nugget that sums up an Irish career that kicked-off against England in a Dublin friendly in June of 2015 but one which has added just five caps since and failed to grab the wider public’s attention.

Martin O’Neill has even mentioned how quiet Arter has been in camp when compared to Bournemouth where he is part of the furniture after seven years. Much of that, the player says, is because he has yet to earn a stronger voice.

Injury has stymied him more than once, but it seems apposite that his most telling contribution so far — last month’s stepover in Cardiff before James McClean’s winner — passed without him touching the ball.

“I did mean it,” he smiles. “If you look in the build-up, I see him. As a player you sense when there is a player there. I knew if I took a touch I wouldn’t be able to get my shot off, so I definitely meant it. I tried to say to Jeff (Hendrick) I was having the assist but he wouldn’t have it!”

Ireland have few enough Premier League regulars from which to choose and Arter — back in the Bournemouth side for the win away to Newcastle United last weekend after a rare spell on the bench — has plenty to offer Martin O’Neill’s side yet.

Mick McCarthy once suggested that it took him a good 15 caps before he began to find his feet in the international game. Arter has done well on occasion already, but there was a steep and costly dip in Tbilisi in September when Ireland could only draw 1-1.

He held his hands up in the aftermath of a game in which he admitted to being poor on both sides of the ball, both publicly and when speaking to O’Neill who dropped him and Glenn Whelan for the visit of Serbia to Dublin days later.

Jeff Hendrick
Jeff Hendrick

Rehabilitation wasn’t long coming.

It was O’Neill who instigated a welcome chat with the 27-year-old midfielder before the next game — the 2-0 win over Moldova in which Arter managed 11 minutes — and he was back in the 11 for the do-or-die tie at Cardiff City Stadium.

“I said before the game ‘no regrets’ and that’s what happened. I’d no fear.”

He insists he’s comfortable at international level now, both on the pitch and off it. Contributing to that memorable night in the Welsh capital, added to his role in the 1-0 win in Vienna this time last year, has been crucial to that.

More signs of growth will be required in Copenhagen.

With David Meyler suspended and James McCarthy injured, the odds are that O’Neill will look to pair Arter and Whelan in the midfield for the first time since that terrible night in Tbilisi. The question is whether they are compatible.

The fact Ireland were swamped in Vienna for the opening quarter and then gained a foothold after Meyler replaced an injured Whelan adds doubt as to the effectiveness of their particular double act.

Arter dismisses that thesis as simplistic.

“The Austria game didn’t start well but as the game went on it could have easily changed for the positive the way it did with Glenn on. We’ve played together in friendlies and played well together. The Georgia game was just a disappointment all round for the team.

“I don’t feel you could pinpoint me and Glenn as the reason why the game didn’t go as well as we would have hoped. Of course, individually we take responsibility for not playing well but, as a partnership, I would hope we are more than capable of playing with each other.”

A nation will share that sentiment.

Christian Eriksen possesses the ability, and the form, to punish any weaknesses in the Irish ranks. Arter learned as much when Bournemouth got their shape wrong in playing a 4-4-2 at White Hart Lane last April and paid for it with a 4-0 loss.

So, what is it that makes the Dane great?

“His awareness, a great football brain, one of them players that will always find space somehow. We’re going to have to try and get tight as possible. He’s the sort of player you can’t give too much time on the ball to, these players who are world-class.

“They always find space and pockets that you wonder how they get into. It’s good going into a game knowing his strengths, something we’ve got to do and try and close him down as possible. Don’t sit off him and, if I was to play, space would be something I’d try and not let him have.”

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