After earning 61 caps and scoring 14 goals for his country, Kevin Doyle has exceeded his own expectations but still believes he can contribute to the Irish cause in their time of need.
Martin O’Neill’s reliance on Robbie Keane’s goals has been one of the manager’s recurrent gripes during his 20 months at the helm and the slump in Doyle’s career curve over that period hasn’t helped.
Frozen out at Wolves since Kenny Jackett’s appointment in 2013, not even a loan stint at Crystal Palace last season could stall the Wexford native’s demise in England.
Instead, a move to Major League Soccer outfit Colorado Rapids in May has provided the change of scene he pined for. Now, the chance to sample his first international squad in 10 months beckons against Gibraltar tomorrow and, just a fortnight short of his 32nd birthday, Doyle has rediscovered the zest absent during the difficult times.
“It’s nice to be playing week in, week out,” he says. “I had a year and a half where I wasn’t selected at Wolves and I went on loan to Crystal Palace. I only played maybe one game in five months there. It was really a pointless loan move in the end.
“We’ve had a nice little run at Colorado, winning six out of eight, and given ourselves a chance to make the MLS playoffs.
“I still get that buzz from scoring and enjoy winning games now a lot. I always enjoyed winning games, but when you are younger, you just think if you score and you draw 2-2, you are delighted with it.
“But now I personally just enjoy winning games. There have been plenty of promotions but I’ve also been involved in relegations and it’s been tough, all the time being down like that. So now I really enjoy winning games and I appreciate that feeling.
“After playing very little over the previous 18 months, there’s been a lot of games for me in the past three months.
“Playing at altitude in Colorado and training every day in 30C, it’s easy to be fit and to feel healthy and strong. I feel as fit as I’ve ever done.”
Should Ireland manage to extricate themselves from fourth place of Group D during the final four qualifiers and figure amongst the 24 nations at next year’s extended showpiece, then there will be a wrong to put right in Doyle’s eyes.
As a senior player he felt the pain of failure from Euro 2012 when three defeats left Ireland returning from Poland and Ukraine with nothing more than the joint-worst record in the history of the tournament.
“I would like to qualify both personally and, as a team, to do better than we did last time,” he said.
“Another chance would be nice, to have another go at it. It was a hard group but we still felt we could show better than what we did. We’re definitely not out of contention to qualify. If it comes down to us needing to beat Germany in October, it’s definitely possible. We have to give ourselves that chance by beating Gibraltar and Georgia over the next few days.
“When I was playing in the League of Ireland, if anyone would have told me I’d get 60-odd caps and 14 goals, I’d have been a very happy man. Now that I have that, I want more.”
Doyle will spend time between the autumn international assignments back in his new surrounds, Denver, where his football club competes with one of the country’s biggest American Football teams for the adulation of the natives.
As a fan of the sport himself, the Irish import isn’t complaining.
Doyle said: “I drive past the Broncos stadium every day so I’ll have to go and support them when they play.
“Denver have every sport, the Nuggets, the Rockies, the Avalacnes. All the franchises are there, I think we’re one of the only cities that have everything.
“For me, it‘s a bit more relaxed than English football. In America, the soccer fans will know you and there are a good few Irish people living in Denver who would too.
“But it’s not the same passionate support that you would get in the UK, where football is the main sport. But it’s a nice atmosphere and I’ve enjoyed it.”
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