HIBS new boy Eoin Doyle today revealed his dream move to Easter Road had come “like a bolt from the blue”.
Doyle, scorer of 25 goals in the League of Ireland in the season just finished, was set to put pen to paper on a new deal with Sligo Rovers when he received a surprise call from Pat Fenlon inviting him to Edinburgh.
And after impressing in a week on trial – including a goal in a 3-0 friendly win over St Johnstone – the 23-year-old agreed an 18-month deal with the Capital outfit.
He will, however, be forced to wait for his debut in a green and white shirt with Hibs unable to register his move until the transfer window opens on January 1, leaving Doyle contemplating a clash with arch-rivals Hearts as his first match for his new club.
The intervening period will, though, be put to good use as Doyle is put through a “mini pre-season,” his last competitive match having come at the beginning of November when he helped Sligo retain the FAI Cup.
Admitting his world had been turned upside down over the course of the past few days, Doyle said: “I was nearly signing back with Sligo when Pat Fenlon called me out of the blue and then it was just a case of getting myself over here as quickly as possible.
“As a football player in Ireland it is always at the back of your mind to get ‘across the water,’ a dream. Now it has actually happened for me I’m just delighted.
“It’s a big step, it’s known as a better standard of football over here, a big opportunity for me.”
Doyle’s 25 goals, breaking a club record which had stood for 74 years, had attracted plenty of attention, with both Aberdeen and Ipswich Town credited with an interest in signing him.But, he revealed, he and Fenlon have known each other for years.
The Dublin-born star, who will wear the No. 10 shirt which has lain vacant since Derek Riordan left Hibs, said: “Last season was massive for me, the club record and the most league goals in a season, it was a special seson for me and I got a lot of attention because of the goals.
“Other clubs were interested but there was nothing concrete and once I heard from Hibs my heart was set on coming here. I know Pat from when I was a schoolboy at Shelbourne and he was first team coach.
“He would have seen me play quite a lot then while I also played against his sides when I went into professional football.”
Fenlon, naturally, was delighted to have completed his first signing as Hibs boss, convinced Doyle will quickly become a firm favourite with the Easter Road support.
The Hibees boss said: “I know loads about him, it was just a case of wanting to have a look at Eoin to see where he was fitness-wise.
“I’m pleased to have got him, he gives us a different dimension to what he have. He plays on the shoulder a fair bit rather than being one who comes short. His movement is very good, he is quick, he can play wide on the right or left and he’s a good finisher.
“There are parts of his game we have to work on and improve but he will be a good addition for us.”
Although red tape prevented Doyle playing against Dundee United at Tannadice today, Fenlon insisted he’ll have no qualms about throwing him into the white-hot cauldron that is an Edinburgh derby on January 2.
He said: “I think Eoin is probably more frustrated than me but he only has another couple of weeks to wait. He’ll be doing a bit extra training but there will be no worries about playing him against Hearts.
“He’s been playing at a really high level in a very good Sligo Rovers team, one which, rather unusually were the League’s highest scorers while conceding fewest goals and yet didn’t win the title as they finished second.
“He’s also played in Europe and with Shamrock Rovers as well so I don’t see any problems. I think the top three or four teams in Ireland would compete in the League here.
“They might not get into the top four, but they would definitely compete. Eoin will take a little while getting used to the game here and getting his fitness level up but he will get goals at this level.”
In that regard, Doyle admitted he’s hoping to follow in the footsteps of his schoolboy pal, Anthony Stokes, well aware how he proved a smash-hit with 23 goals in his season at Easter Road before making his £1.4 million move to Celtic.
He said: “Stokesy and I went to school together and were at Shelbourne as youngsters from the age of ten to probably 14 or 15. We were good friends. I haven’t spoken to him since I came over but I’ll be giving him a ring.
“He’d have got far more goals than me. he was a cut above the rest of us, lethal.”
Stokes’ prowess as a youngster, of course, earned him an early move to Arsenal before former Hibs boss John Hughes tempted him to Falkirk on loan, the pair renewing their acquaintanceship at Easter Road after the player found himself out in the cold at Sunderland.
Doyle said: “Anthony has carved out a great career for himself, he’s flying at Celtic at the moment. I know he did well at Hibs, he grabbed quite a few headlines here so it would be good to follow in his footsteps.”
Stokes may have given Doyle something to live up to, but there’s one accolade he insisted was entirely untrue – the claim he was known back home as “The Green Messi”.
He said: “I don’t know where that has come from, I heard it for the first time yesterday morning.”