With Harry Arter one of Ireland’s most consistent midfield Premier League performers, is the Bournemouth player the man to make Ireland tick against Wales?
Arter started Ireland’s qualifier in Vienna when James McCarthy was ruled out through injury, and alongside David Meyler, contributed to a milestone Irish victory, our first significant competitive away win since Scotland in 1987.
Martin O’Neill’s men sit top of their World Cup qualifying group with the crucial visit of Wales to Dublin on the horizon. The manager has something of a midfield selection dilemma with Arter, McCarthy, Glenn Whelan, and of course, creative outlet Wes Hoolahan all vying for starting berths. James McCarthy has made just 13 appearances for Everton this season through a combination of injury and Ronald Koeman’s selection wishes. On the other hand, 27-year-old Arter has made 26 appearances grabbing one goal.
Arter has played underage for Ireland since U17 level and made his senior debut in the friendly against England at the Aviva Stadium. He qualifies for the Boys in Green through his Sligo grandparents. He was named man-of-the-match in a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands before making his first competitive appearance in Ireland’s win in Austria last November.
Born in London, Arter joined the Charlton youth ranks but made just one appearance for the senior side. After a spell at Woking, he was signed by Bournemouth in 2010, and a part from a loan period at Carlisle, played his part in the Cherries promotion to the Premier League.
He isn’t the only Irish connection to Bournemouth. Former players include Don Givens, Davy Langan, Gerry Peyton, and more recently Marc Wilson, John O’Shea, and Ian Harte. Sean O’Driscoll is a former manager appointed in 2000, and in six seasons experienced both relegation heartache and lower-league play-off success. He spent six years at the club, but the Cherries endured a checkered history in recent years almost going out of business in 2008. Administration and changing ownership represented the club’s roulette years flirting with extinction.
Under Eddie Howe, who became the youngest manager in the Football League at 31, Bournemouth only preserved their league status with a win in the second last game of the 2009 season. It represented a turnaround their fortunes and the fairytale was completed for the club, now sponsored by Mansion, the online casino and games site, hit their own jackpot getting promoted to the Premier League in 2015.
Arter has been a consistent performer since their first ever appearance in England’s top flight. Unusually dropped from the starting line-up for last month’s game against Watford, the player’s attitude will have impressed Irish fans. “I was very disappointed. But the way I went about my work was to get my head down, work hard and try to get back in the team,” he told the Bournemouth Daily Echo. “I used my disappointment as my motivation to try to make sure it doesn’t happen to me again.”
Prior to the game in Vienna, internet rumours gathered pace that Arter was about to switch international allegiance to England, not helped by Sky Sports’ Jeff Stelling and Paul Merson seemingly unaware the player had been lining out for Ireland since his teens.
Arter was forced to address the issue by saying, while there was never any truth to the story, the online reaction of some Irish fans did give him pause for thought. He answered in the best possible fashion by playing his part in a famous Irish win in Austria.
With Gareth Bale back in action, Martin O’Neill has a headache ahead of the clash with Wales in Dublin, not helped by Shane Duffy’s absence through injury, and Robbie Brady’s suspension. If the Derry native opts to throw Arter into the fray, the player will be keen to continue where he left off last November as he told the Irish Times: “It’s good to be part of a team that has won; it won’t do me any harm. Hopefully I can keep doing well.”