Doyle goal against Costa Rica seen as sign of things to come

O’Neill sets sights on readying players for Portugal rather than victories in the short term

Ireland’s Glenn Whelan reacts after Kevin Doyle is injured during Friday’s friendly againt Costa Rica in Philadelphia.  Photograph: Inpho/Donall Farmer

Ireland’s Glenn Whelan reacts after Kevin Doyle is injured during Friday’s friendly againt Costa Rica in Philadelphia. Photograph: Inpho/Donall Farmer

Mon, Jun 9, 2014, 01:00

At some point before Ireland’s unexpectedly robust encounter with Costa Rica on Friday evening, Roy Keane casually asked Kevin Doyle when he had last scored for Ireland. Whether it was polite chit-chat on the platform at Penn station while the squad waited for their train to arrive or whether Keane was sharpening Doyle’s focus hardly matters.

Martin O’Neill overheard the exchange and was surprised to hear that it was back in September 2012, when Ireland played in Oman. Before half-time in Philadelphia, the statistic was erased as Doyle guided a bullet header to the net, marking an end to a drought for a ferociously hardworking player.

Doyle, understandably, downplayed the goal: it is not as if he won the lottery. Goals are his bread and butter.

“It was good to get the goal, but I would have liked to have won the game,” he said.

“It was a great ball in by Marc Wilson; he looked up and saw me make a run and put a great ball in. I just tried to put as much power and contact on it as possible and it flew in.

“We played well in the first half but in the second half we were not as good and they played some good stuff. We had chances to win the game.”

For Martin O’Neill, the significance of the goal lay deeper than Doyle’s international stats sheet. All goal scorers go through cold seasons. Doyle has had a difficult few seasons and is unclear as to whether his loan spell to Premier League-bound Queens Park Rangers will be made permanent or whether he will report back to Wolves for pre-season training. But O’Neill is convinced Doyle can recapture his scoring touch.

Finding the way back

“I said to Kevin, here, it’s finding your way back, really it’s finding your way back,” he said.

“He has to ask himself what has happened in the last couple of years – whether it’s sometimes you don’t score the goals and feel as if that’s your major job, and confidence is affected and then you start to drop down a couple of divisions.

“And, of course, relegation with Wolves at times doesn’t help anybody, but he has a bit of rejuvenation going to Queens Park Rangers helping them get into the Premiership (sic). But that’s where he has got to aim to try and get back to: to the player he was a couple of years ago.

“There shouldn’t be any reason for him not to be able to do that . . . in fact, it was confidence and confidence was low. Tonight, I thought he did really fine for us, you know he chased the one down in the corner eventually to get us the goal and that was great for his confidence.

“I think like most players at this minute, especially if you have done something half decent in the big league, you want to get back to that and he will have to help himself to do that.”

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