Sport Soccer

Thursday 18 January 2018

Hoops fan Doyle dedicated to Sligo cause

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Scoring the winning goal against your home-town club in the FAI Cup final might put some people off going home for Christmas, but Eoin Doyle takes a different view on life.

A Tallaght native, who grew up supporting Shamrock Rovers and wore their famous Hoops, there could be a case for saying the youngster will have mixed emotions on Sunday afternoon when he takes to the field for Sligo Rovers in the FAI Cup showdown.

But the winger-cum-striker, released by Michael O'Neill to join the Bit O'Red halfway through last season, is not one for sentiment and is relishing the opportunity to face his old team-mates at the Aviva Stadium.

He has a good record against his old pals since he upped sticks and moved from Firhouse to the northwest and he says he thrives on the stick he receives every time he plays against Rovers.

Even though the club only moved into their new home last year, Doyle's generation in Tallaght grew up knowing that the club was coming.

Through lack of finance the stadium remained incomplete for several years but the shell was a constant reminder that Rovers were coming and most of them adopted the Hoops as their team.

A goalscorer in last year's cup final, the 22-year-old is expected to get the nod to replace Matthew Blinkhorn in the lone-striker's role when Paul Cook names his team.

Doyle has been getting it in the neck every time he goes home, but a winning role wouldn't put him off -- quite the opposite, in fact.

"I'd be strutting around with the medal around my neck. Definitely," he smiles. "I love it. I love the stick. The fans give me stick and I look over and half of them live on my Ma's road. It's great, I just take it on board and it's very enjoyable. I always get a bit of stick when I go home, I love when I go home and the abuse is flying out at you. It's great.

"The stadium was always there, lying derelict as it was. So there was always a presence around the place, this is the place where Shamrock Rovers are. I would have loved nothing more than to have made it there but when the time came to move on, I'm glad I did. I think I've done well since.

"It was the first half of the season when O'Neill came in and I just wasn't getting in. I asked him could I leave, so there was no reason that he wouldn't let me."

The move to Sligo was a daunting one for the then 21-year-old, a trained electrician who played his schoolboy football at Shelbourne, Cherry Orchard and Crumlin United. But he has adapted well and says the quiet life suits him.

Conversations with Sligo players in the build-up to Sunday's final invariably drift back to that day in Tallaght a year ago, when Doyle had their large band of fans dreaming of a first FAI Cup success since 1994 -- until it was ripped from their grasp by a remarkable Sporting Fingal recovery.

"The best moment and worst moments of my life in 20 minutes," is how Doyle describes the experience, and he and his team-mates are keen to put an end to the memories.

There is a school of thought that their third position in the league and the EA Sports Cup win have eased the pain, but there is no doubting that Sunday means a lot more.

Fear of a repeat will drive Sligo on and Doyle says they have nothing to fear, thanks largely to their manager, Paul Cook.

"It would kill me (to lose again), especially because of who I'm playing against," he said. "Having scored at home in Tallaght last year and to have it taken away from us in the last six minutes of the match -- it was heartbreaking, it still sickens me now thinking about it. Coming into cup games it has always been brought up, 'remember the pain, we don't want that again' and I'm sure it will be the same for the final."

Irish Independent

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