Monday 21 August 2017

Persistent Doyle driven by decade-long wait for another international call-up

Colin Doyle of Republic of Ireland during squad training at NY Red Bulls Training Facility in Whippany, New Jersey, USA. Photo: Sportsfile
Colin Doyle of Republic of Ireland during squad training at NY Red Bulls Training Facility in Whippany, New Jersey, USA. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

In Colin Doyle's house, there is a case that contains an honour that he holds dear to him.

Ten years have passed since Ireland's 2007 tour of the USA, a trip that is often referenced in the context of how manager Steve Staunton scraped the barrel to find available players to make up the squad.

The likes of Joe O'Cearuill and Joey Lapira would never make another squad.

Colin Doyle did. But his only Irish appearance came in the Giants Stadium draw with Ecuador. A decade on, the 31-year-old is back in America with another makeshift squad - although it is nowhere near as experimental as Stan's voyage.

The Bradford 'keeper is determined to add to the solitary cap that he has kept hold of in that case to preserve a special memory.

"It does mean a lot," he says. "It's every kid's dream to play for your country. It's every kid's dream to play be a professional footballer. You go through the underage side and then you get into the first team with your club and then your next aim is to stay in it.

"And after that, the next thing is to try and break in for your country. It was obviously disappointing not to get any more (caps) afterwards and if I can now, then it will be fantastic."

Birmingham City's Stephen Gleeson and Daryl Murphy are the other squad members preparing for tonight's date with Mexico that were present for '07.

All three have endured spells in the wilderness and Doyle (pictured) has more in common with Gleeson whose appearance off the bench against Iceland in March represented his first Irish outing since his surprise Stateside promotion in Staunton's short-lived tenure.

Doyle was around squads under Giovanni Trapattoni without ever getting on the pitch. It tied in with his club existence at Birmingham where he spent the lion's share of his stay as the understudy. That included a stint behind Darren Randolph in the pecking order.

He was released in the summer of 2015 and spent a year at Blackpool where he played regularly but suffered relegation before Bradford triggered an infamous £1 release clause in his contract.

The season just gone was one of the most satisfying of his career as he was first choice with a Bradford side that performed well before the heartbreak of a League One play-off final defeat to Millwall.

"It was (a productive season)," says Doyle. "I played a full season. The season before that I went to Blackpool and tried to play every week but got a couple of injuries.

"This year, the only games I did not play were when I was with Ireland and then the last league game of season when we were rested for the play-offs in the following days."

Regular football got him back in the Irish scene. He had no complaints about his absence when he was bench-warming at Birmingham. Now he feels he's back in on merit and he was glad to report for duty this week as a means of erasing the memory of that loss to Millwall.

Losing was bad enough but it was followed by a pitch invasion driven by a loutish minority of Millwall fans. He's just about able to laugh about it now.

"I was sitting on the ground and I saw one or two coming on to the pitch," he recalls.

"Then, all of a sudden, there were hundreds of them. They were saying the usual things, trying to get a reaction from you. There were a few singles in front of your face.

"You are used to it, you have had it before so you just have to ignore it and try to walk away.

"I'm sure that if you did something then you'd get a lengthy ban and a fine so I try to stay away from that.

"It (defeat) was hard to get over, especially as we had a good season. We probably drew too many games.

"We were dominant in games but ended up drawing them. We drew 19 which was far too many.

"But we got to Wembley which gave us a 50-50 chance of winning. We dominated the first half and it was disappointing to lose in the end."

He's pragmatic about his Irish situation now, accepting that the friendlies offer his only chance of involvement in this window. If he does figure tonight, he knows he's keeping the gloves warm for Randolph.

The West Ham keeper could do with match sharpness so it's possible he will be involved at some stage in both the Mexico match and Sunday's date with Uruguay.

Doyle's role could be limited as a consequence, but every minute counts. He's got a cap back home that needs some company.

Irish Independent

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