EOIN DOYLE may be an unknown name to Hibs fans, but one of his former team-mates today claimed that the Irish striker is the man that can help the Easter Road side start scoring again.
Jim Lauchlan, the former Dundee United and Kilmarnock defender, played with Doyle at Sligo Rovers, and he believes the 23-year-old striker, who scored 25 goals for League of Ireland outfit the season just finished and also found the net in a bounce match for Hibs yesterday, would be a fine addition to manager Pat Fenlon’s squad.
“Doyle is a player full of confidence after two good seasons, and he would be coming over having played European football, won three medals and scored a barrowload of goals,” says Lauchlan, 34, who left the west of Ireland club earlier this year before signing for Ayr United and, recently, retiring from football to focus on a career in the oil industry.
“I played with him at Sligo and he is one of the boys I keep in touch with. My time at Sligo was successful, we won the FAI Cup the last two years and were top scorers in the division – and that was a lot down to Eoin.
“I would love to see him get the chance because he’s a top boy, and he would certainly be a good addition to the Hibs squad.”
Lauchlan viewed at close quarters the talent of Doyle during a spell at Sligo last season, where the pair helped the club nicknamed Bit o’ Red to a cup double and qualification for European football.
Doyle struck double figures from the right flank during the 2010 season, and proceeded to hit 25 goals after a move to centre forward in the campaign that has just drawn to a close. That tally broke Sligo’s record for the number of goals scored in a season, his efforts breaking a club record that had stood for 74 years.
“When I went over there, he was a boy who impressed me with his attitude,” recalled Lauchlan. “He’s a good professional, and works hard at his game. He played wide on the right, wide left, or through the middle. Sligo normally play a 4-5-1, and in 2010 he was playing mainly wide right and got double figures. In 2011, he moved to centre forward and scored even more.”
If Fenlon’s does decide to strike and Doyle becomes the manager’s first signing for Hibs, fans at Easter Road can look forward to the 6ft red head forming a dynamic partnership with current top scorer Garry O’Connor and, perhaps, Leigh Griffiths, should the latter extend his stay at the club.
“As a fan, first and foremost, you want to see your players giving 100 per cent,” says Lauchlan, right. “From his time at Dundee, I know Leigh Griffiths has a great work ethic, and it’s the same with Eoin Doyle. He likes to get in behind defences, so there are similarities there. Whether he plays wide left, wide right or through the middle, he will score goals because the timing of his runs are good. He was arriving bang on cue for chances. That’s important, but it depends on where Pat wants to play him.
“He likes to get in behind rather than being a link man. If Garry O’Connor holds it up, Doyle would get in behind, working the flanks and getting into the box to score goals.
“I think the time is right for Eoin to get a move and with a club like Hibs coming in for him, the Hibs fans should be happy for him to sign. He’s not guaranteed a place – I don’t think many players are – but he will score goals.”
Lauchlan evidently has confidence in his team-mate’s chances of carving out a successful career in the SPL, but positive form in the League of Ireland will not always translate directly into a fruitful spell in Scotland’s top flight. Doyle will not, according to Lauchlan, have a problem in adjusting to either the standard of football nor the move from a country in which he has spent his entire life.
“I think the type of boy he is, he would adapt fine,” said Lauchlan. “He’s a level-headed boy, has a good family behind him, but his ambition is to go onto bigger and better things than Sligo. The time is right for him to make the move. He’s a Dublin boy but living in Sligo, which is three hours away – so moving to Scotland will not a problem. He would embrace it.
“People maybe ‘down’ the Irish League, but I played in a really good Dundee team with [Gary] Harkins and [Leigh] Griffiths and I would say Sligo would more than hold their own with bottom six teams in the SPL.”
If further proof were required of Irish football’s standing in relation to Scotland’s game, Pat Fenlon himself is sure to gain the rewards his meticulous preparation deserves, says Lauchlan, who recalls the impression Fenlon made on him as the boss of opponents Bohemians. He said: “We played Bohemians, and I know they were going through financial difficulties but they were always well-organised and disciplined – that comes from the manager. Pat had a good reputation in Ireland, and everybody within that team knew their job. They were good on set pieces, and had a great work ethic.”
While Easter Road could be the destination for the second Sligo star to arrive in the SPL this winter after Rovers captain Richie Ryan’s move to Dundee United, Lauchlan believes that Hibs boss Fenlon could well revisit his old stomping ground to pluck one or two further signings from the rich group of talent in the League of Ireland.
“It is a good standard,” said Lauchlan. “Richie Ryan went from Sligo to Dundee United and will be a right good addition – he was our captain and a really good player.
“I do think there are a few players in Ireland that Pat Fenlon could be interested in. I’ve seen them at close quarters and there are players who Pat knows well, but it will be up to him to decide if they’re good enough. I do think there are boys, certainly at Sligo, who are good enough.”
But, if Doyle proves a hit at Hibs, it will not just be only the Irish eyes of Fenlon looking west with ambitions of unearthing the Republic’s next big thing.