Coping with a Hull City side two divisions above them in tomorrow’s semi-final at Wembley won’t daunt Sheffield United. Sure, in their Irish-born skipper they have an exemplar in overcoming adversary.
Then-boss O’Neill dashed the Celtic dreams of Doyle by tabling the inconvenient truth before him. If the 21-year-old was to make a first-team breakthrough, it wasn’t going to be at Celtic.
Doyle, now 32, doesn’t bear any grudge towards the current Ireland manager. Being told they’re not good enough, often the first set-back in a youngster’s ascent, can be sometimes terminal to their career, yet this Irishman has engineered for himself a career that will see him crown his 500th appearance in English football today as one of his proudest.
Like most of Doyle’s career, however, there’ll be no fuss or fanfare surrounding personal accolades. Cohesion has been their key to scalping Aston Villa and Fulham along this cup run and the Blades captain can see no reason for a third Premier League big gun not to be sent packing tomorrow.
“The approach will be much the same as when we went to Villa and Fulham but, of course, the noise that comes from Wembley will be different and something our players have to handle,” said Doyle, capped once in 2005 as a substitute in the 1-0 win over the Netherlands in Amsterdam.
“That’s where my job comes into play. We’ve a lot of young players and, while I don’t fear them freezing, they must take in the atmosphere quick and ensure we stay in the game early on.”
Doyle, for one, can draw upon the experience of previous cup upsets for inspiration. He was in the Coventry City and Leeds United teams that prevailed at Manchester United in 2007 and 2010 respectively. He can only impress upon his teammates the importance of maximising opportunities such as today’s.
“These are the games that we will all remember when we come to retire,” said Doyle, who hopes to go one better than Ireland’s Stephen McPhail, the losing Cardiff captain in 2008.
“Beating Manchester United or Villa — it will only hit me when I finish how big those wins were.
“I have known within the first 15 minutes how it was going to go — being able to think, ‘we have got these today’. I don’t need to say much to these young lads here, to be fair. They don’t fear any team.”
The visit to Wembley — and the possibility of another — is in sharp contrast to how the season began for United. Much of the credit has been directed to the manager recruited in October, Nigel Clough, and Doyle pinpoints the boss’s strengths.
“This is just another game for him,” explained the former Cherry Orchard product. “It’s a massive tie for the club all right, but he’s not been running around the training ground saying ‘do this and do that’.
“By the time the game comes around on Sunday, he’ll have us ready as he always does. Up to that point, he’ll be quite relaxed.”
Meanwhile, Doyle’s likely direct Hull opponent in midfield — compatriot David Meyler — has his own motivation for securing a final place against Arsenal or Wigan on May 17.
“After we beat Sunderland in the quarter-final, I was speaking to my nan,” outlined the Corkman. “She was telling me that the last time Hull had been in the semi-finals was 84 years ago. ‘Jesus’, she said, ‘that’s older than me’.
“She is 81 so we had a laugh. It is a shame because this is a fantastic club. We can make history now.
“My Nan has never watched me professionally, only seeing me on the TV.
“I was home for Mother’s Day last month and took my mother and grandmother out for dinner. She said, ‘David, you can send a plane over to take me to the final when you beat Sheffield United’.
“She has promised to come to the FA Cup final. So, I will be encouraging the lads and telling them that we need to win.”
It’s shaping up nicely for a tigerish Irish midfield battle.