Irish football lore has room for just one one-cap wonder from the Steve Staunton era. And that’s fine by Colin Doyle.
A full decade after he made the only senior international appearance of his life in the sparsely populated surrounds of New Jersey’s old Giants Stadium, the goalkeeper is back in the Garden State this week. He’s hoping things are about to get a whole lot rosier.
Should he step onto the field during tonight’s friendly clash with Mexico, Doyle will bridge one hell of a gap. He will also move one cap ahead of Joe Lapira on the all-time list. Doyle is one of three survivors — Daryl Murphy and Stephen Gleeson are also part of Martin O’Neill’s panel here — from one of the more bizarre episodes in Ireland’s footballing history when Steve Staunton capped a US college amateur in a 1-1 draw with Ecuador in the summer of 2007.
Lapira now sells medical supplies for a living. Staunton has arguably slipped even further into anonymity, but Doyle, he’s still standing.
“It’s been a long time since I got my first cap; it’s 10 years now,” said the Bradford City stopper. “At the start of the season, I wanted to force my way back in, which I did.
“It was an honour playing for your country and doing it [in 2007] meant a lot. It was brilliant but it’s a long time ago now. It was obviously disappointing not to get any more and if I can now, then it will be fantastic.”
Doyle does patience like Heinz do beans. He’s had to. He moved from Douglas Hall to Birmingham in his mid teens and would spend 14 years with the club — 14 years that produced the sum total of 31 league appearances.
He finally said his farewells to St Andrew’s in the summer of 2015, joining Blackpool and playing regular football for the first time in forever. When they were relegated, Bradford came in and Doyle made international ‘fancy that’ headlines as a £1 release clause was triggered. This season was the most productive of his career, the Bantams coming agonisingly close to promotion to the Championship only to be pipped at the death by Millwall in the play-off final.
Two weeks out from his 32nd birthday, he says he never gave up hope. Yet he wasn’t always hopeful either.
“To be honest, not while I wasn’t playing at Birmingham. I was there for a long time where I was a number two and behind Darren Randolph at the time. He was involved with Ireland and I knew that unless I moved away and started playing, then I did not think that I would [ever get back in],” said Doyle, who hopes to play for ‘another seven years’.
“I moved to Bradford this year. We started well and I got the call-up. I’m still in, It’s pleasing and it’s what I want. Hopefully I will stay.”
Such is Cork City’s domestic domination this term that there was widespread surprise and justifiably a little hurt that some of their number — striker Sean Maguire at the head of the queue — didn’t make this trip for national team duty.
Nonetheless, Ireland’s training sessions in New Jersey this week have been soundtracked by Cork accents piercing the air…and not just the assistant manager’s bark. John Egan, Conor Hourihane and Preston’s uncapped Alan Browne are all Stateside with Doyle this week. When they return to Dublin, former Cork City man Shane Long will join this Rebel alliance which has the makings of a hell of a seven-a-side team, while David Meyler is another.
“I think Roy is steadily starting to get his own way,” laughs Doyle. “In training, we might have to have an 11 vs 11, Cork vs the rest of Ireland.”
And who would win? Doyle flashes a quick ‘are you serious?’ glance. “Cork…of course.”
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