Eoin DOYLE brought his career in the Republic of Ireland to an end by slamming home a spot-kick in a dramatic penalty shoot-out at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium to help Sligo Rovers retain the FAI Ford Cup.
Now Pat Fenlon’s first signing is hoping to bring some of the luck of the Irish to Hibs in the less salubrious surroundings of Cowdenbeath’s Central Park as the Edinburgh club once again begin their seemingly never-ending quest to bring the Scottish Cup back to Easter Road.
Although barely through the door, the 23-year-old striker is well aware of his new club’s miserable record, one which now stands at 110 years since skipper Bobby Atherton last held that particular trophy aloft.
It is, of course, too early to start dreaming of a big day out at Hampden in May with the Blue Brazil currently top of the Second Division, Colin Cameron’s side having clocked up a run of eight matches unbeaten following Monday’s 4-0 hammering of East Fife.
Hibs will make the journey across the Forth no doubt recalling that it was another then Second Division outfit, Ayr United, which cut short any hopes of cup glory last season.
But while acknowledging this weekend’s tie represents a tricky fixture, Doyle believes Fenlon’s players can put the bitter disappointment of Monday’s derby defeat – one which has left them dangerously close to the SPL’s basement spot – behind them.
He said: “We’ll be taking it very seriously and hopefully we’ll come away with the win. The Scottish Cup has been a bit of a nightmare for Hibs but the Cup in Ireland has been very good for me.
“I played in the last three, lost the first one but won the other two so, fingers crossed, I can bring that sort of luck to Hibs.”
Astonishingly, Doyle’s back-to-back cup triumphs with “Bit o’ Red” both came in penalty shoot-outs with the striker netting against both Shamrock Rovers and then Shelbourne although goalkeeper Ciaran Kelly was the hero in saving four spot-kicks on each occasion.
The Cup victory over Shelbourne at the beginning of November was, however, Doyle’s last taste of action until he stepped off the bench to make his Hibs debut, he and fellow striker Garry O’Connor getting only the final five minutes as Fenlon went for broke with Hearts 2-1 up.
The plan backfired as the Tynecastle side broke deep into added-on time for Rudi Skacel to clinch the three points but now Doyle has his eyes on making an impact in a green and white shirt, convinced he can continue his prolific strike-rate.
Doyle claimed 25 goals in the season just finished in Ireland, breaking a 74-year-old club record for Sligo and, having made Fenlon suffer as boss of Dublin-based Bohemians, the flame-haired hitman is aiming to repay his new manager’s faith in him.
He said: “I’ve been keeping myself ticking over since the FAI Cup final and working hard since I came to Hibs and I can see myself getting back my match fitness although I’ll need some games.
“I haven’t had any great conversations with the manager yet about how he wants to play me but I think he’s shown confidence that I can do a job for him in signing me. I don’t think he has any intention of bringing in new players simply for them to sit in the stand.
“I scored 25 goals last season, 20 of them in the league, and hopefully I can bang in a few more over here. Back home I was quite versatile, I played in a lot of positions but I think it’s most beneficial for me and the team to be up-front looking to get into the box and nick a few goals.
“I think that’s what the boss sees in me. I did well back home but you always want to push yourself as a player and try to get better. I can see myself getting better because I’m now in the SPL.”
Doyle had to endure a nerve-racking wait on New Year’s Day to discover whether his international transfer certificate had been given the green light, clearing him to be named in Fenlon’s squad for the derby, a worry shared by former Sligo team-mate Richie Ryan who had agreed a move to Dundee United.
He said: “Richie and myself were ringing each other non-stop from early morning to see if we’d got the clearance we needed and thankfully it came through. I don’t know exactly when it happened but I was delighted to see my name on the squad list for the Hearts game.
“I was then hoping to get a bit of game time which I did. I don’t know if the manager’s game plan was to perhaps hold me in reserve and put me on as something of an unknown package but in different circumstances if might have worked.
“I didn’t get long, but we still had that wee glimmer of hope that we might get some sort of result but then they got away to get that third goal.
“I thought that up to the last ten minutes we were the better team, we were on top, so I don’t think the results perhaps reflects our performance. I’ve played in a few derbies in Dublin when I was with Shamrock but the atmosphere at Easter Road was brilliant, you could feel the roar when the goals went in.
“It was disappointing to lose but despite the position we are in it’s still a very good dressing-room. The boys have been great helping me settle in and now my ambition, first and foremost, is to get in the team and after that score as many goals as I can.”
The derby defeat left Fenlon with just one point from five matches since he officially took over at Hibs but Doyle insisted the 42-year-old will get it right, pointing to his record in Ireland. The player said: “He’ll definitely turn it around, he’s never not been successful. He’s done a good job wherever he has been and I am sure he’ll do the same here.”