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Doyle: 'We'd have shone in South Africa'

WOLVES striker Kevin Doyle believes that the World Cup in South Africa was poorer for the fact that Ireland were not there, as the Wexford man insists that Giovanni Trapattoni's team would have make progress to the latter stages of the competition had they qualified.

Many of the players who appeared in the World Cup finals are still sunning themselves on the finest beaches in Europe or, in the case of the Spanish, showing off their medals, those players allowed to delay their return to pre-season training.

It was back to work and back to basics for Doyle and his Wolves team-mates on Saturday as they played their first pre-season game, a 3-0 win over an under-strength Bohemians side at Dalymount Park.

There were positives from an Irish point of view: Doyle played and looked sharp, Stephen Ward came on as a sub and showed no ill-effects from the injury which forced him to miss the finish of last season's Premier League with Wolves, an injury which also denied former Bohs man Ward a certain Ireland cap. There was also positive news on Stephen Hunt as although the summer signing from Hull was not fit to play, he has discarded the protective boot which he's been wearing since an operation on a foot injury.


Doyle is, of course, looking forward to the start of a new season with club and country, with Ireland's game against Argentina in Dublin and the start of the Premier League season only days apart, but there was also time to reflect, and Doyle spoke honestly about his experiences of watching the World Cup finals while on honeymoon and thoughts of what might have been.

"Looking at any of the teams who were at the World Cup, if we had been there we would have had a good run and could conceivably have gone far in the tournament," Doyle said after his appearance for Wolves against Bohs.

"Some of the teams who did well weren't expected to do so. Look at Paraguay, we played them in Dublin a few weeks before the finals, we were the better team on the night but they were the team going to the World Cup. It was end of season for us and it shouldn't have meant that much but we still outplayed them, I thought.

"It's all ifs, buts and maybes but if we had been there in South Africa, we would have put on a decent show and got out of the group," added Doyle.

"I tried to watch bits of the World Cup, I was away on honeymoon so I didn't see much of the group stages. I was back home for the knock-out phase so I did watch that and I enjoyed it, more than I thought I would to be honest."

A photograph has done the rounds of the Irish soccer world via email and Facebook, a pic of Robbie Keane and Damien Duff supposedly celebrating enthusiastically at the moment when France were knocked out of the World Cup, but Doyle says he had mixed feelings about the fortunes and farce of the French.

"I would have liked to see France do well, just to see what path we would have gone on, if it had been us there instead of them, just to see how we'd have done," Doyle said.

"I think everyone in Ireland had a bit of a smile on their faces when all that was happening with the French. But I'd have preferred for France to go on a bit further.

"We move on now. It's not far to the start of the qualifiers now, only a few weeks, and we're all looking forward to it, and we also have the first game at Lansdowne against Argentina.

"It's going to be hectic over the next few weeks, all the pre-season games, the start of the league season and the Ireland games, a busy few weeks."

A busy season is ahead for Doyle, especially if Mick McCarthy picks up where he left off last season and plays most games with Doyle as a lone ranger, the only striker in a 4-5-1 formation. "I'm sure we will be playing both formations, the 4-4-2 and the 4-3-3 when needed. The manager has options," Doyle said.

"We played 4-5-1 but I was doing no more than the other players when we played that way, just because we had one up front people felt sorry for me and maybe got more credit that way. I really enjoyed the season even though it was tough, every goal felt like it was well-deserved and I enjoyed every goal that I got.

"Personally, my aim for the season is the same as that of the team, to try and do better than last year, that's my aim every year, being honest. I don't set individual targets, I like to feel at the end of the season that I have done better than the previous one.


"I have always been like that since I started playing. We finished 15th last season and were safe with a couple of games to go, so we'll look to improve on that, though that won't be easy. We were written off by a lot of the sages at the start of the season so we'll look to improve again.

"As I said, it won't be easy to do that but we have signed some players, we are more experienced and that will help me as an individual as well," added Doyle, happy to be back in Ireland for pre-season despite the amount of sweat involved.

"Training has been hard and everyone is the same, a bit sore and tired as we're working hard. It's a tough schedule ahead as we have a game every three days now before the season starts but it's worth it to make sure we're ready," Doyle said.

"I didn't do pre-season last year because of injury and in the end it didn't make a massive difference to me. So I'm hoping that this season, having done the pre-season, it will bring me on again. Last season my first game was three or four matches into the season and they say that when you miss pre-season it makes a difference. I made up for it in the long run but I am feeling fresh now and have no injuries, so hopefully I can bring things on again.

"Saturday's game against Bohs was good, I saw a few old faces, I would have been up against Jason McGuinness a few times, Jason Byrne as well.

"I was happy to just get out and play. We had been doing all the work at running and with weights for the last few weeks, you just want to get out there and play. It was very hot in the game on Saturday and it was tough. We were getting blisters and soreness from the weights, it's a matter of getting that out of the way. The first few games in pre-season are all about that, not worrying about the result or who scored. We'll get a bit more serious when we get closer to the start of the season."