Stand-in captain Doyle ‘privileged’ at Ireland honour

KEVIN DOYLE is confident he can maintain his 100% record as Republic of Ireland skipper – because he may never get to wear the armband again.

The Wexford-born 25-year-old had the honour of leading his country in their friendly with World Cup hosts South Africa in Limerick on Tuesday night in the absence of the rested Robbie Keane.

His big night ended on a high note as Liam Lawrence’s 37th-minute free-kick clinched a win which, if possible, broadened the smile on his face.

Doyle said: “There are not many from Wexford who have played soccer for their country, so to captain I am sure it is probably a first, so I am delighted.

“It’s a privilege. My family, everyone, when they heard they were absolutely thrilled, so I was just delighted to go out there, and to win as well was nice.”

Doyle was one of only three men who started Saturday night’s 2-1 World Cup qualifier victory in Cyprus to get the nod again at Thomond Park as manager Giovanni Trapattoni tested the depth of his squad.

South Africa gave the Italian’s new-look side a real test, particularly before the break, but they held firm despite missing most of their big names to secure a second successive victory and erase the memory of last month’s 3-0 defeat by Australia in Limerick.

Doyle said: “The amount of changes – there were eight changes from the team the other night – it was great that people could come in and we looked reasonably okay.

“All the lads have been involved in the training over the last year and a half now and they know what is expected of them.

“To win two games in a row is nice. The defeat here wasn’t nice last month.

“It was only a friendly, but it’s not nice to come to the stadium and lose – it’s probably the last time we will be here for a long, long time – and it was nice to get that win tonight after being soundly beaten by Australia.”

The next time Trapattoni and his players get together, their World Cup hopes will be on the line.

Home games against Group Eight leaders and current champions Italy and Montenegro inside five days next month will decide whether they qualify automatically, head into a play-off or stay at home and watch the tournament on television.

Full-back Stephen Kelly, who took over as captain when Doyle was handed a well-earned rest in last night’s game, said: “Everybody knows what’s at stake.

“We are two games away from the World Cup and I am sure the fans will be out in force.

“Everybody knows what it is like to get to a World Cup. We were all supporters when we were younger and the whole country just goes crazy.”


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