Jake Doyle-Hayes is a willing, ready and able option as Hibs tire of Jackson Irvine waiting game
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While the Australian was made an offer, which Hibs were willing to leave on the table while he was on international business, his ongoing hesitancy in committing to an extended stay in Edinburgh has led the Leith club to look elsewhere for the type of midfielder they feel can help them push on from last season’s third-place Premiership finish and clutch of cup semi-finals.
Instead of a ready-made international, manager Jack Ross has gone for potential, bagging the St Mirren Republic of Ireland Under-21 cap Doyle-Hayes, who had been a key target for Premiership rivals Dundee United.
The 22-year-old, who agreed a two-year contract, is the second new signing of the summer, following Inverness Caledonian Thistle winger Daniel Mackay through the gates at East Mains.
Born in Ballyjamesduff in County Cavan, it was there he was spotted by several scouts, representing Manchester United and Chelsea, as well as Aston Villa.
But, it was the presence of his idol and former Republic of Ireland captain Roy Keane on the Villa management team that influenced his eventual decision.
That decision saw him eventually make the breakthrough from the youth ranks into the Villa first team, debuting in August 2017, in a League Cup win over Wigan. A regular at age group level, that first team showing helped him earn a new three-year deal but he managed only two more appearances for the Villa Park side before he joined Cambridge United on loan in January 2019.
It was a short-term arrangement and he struggled to nail down a starting berth due to international call-ups and injuries, so that summer he moved to League Two side Cheltenham Town in a bid to jumpstart his club career.
Seen by many as a holding midfielder, he is also able to play a more advanced role and he demonstrated his ability, earning player of the month awards and netting his first senior level goal as he got 36 first team games under his belt. But at the end of the season, with the loan deal over, and covid restrictions hitting clubs hard, he was released by Aston Villa.
His opportunity to head north arose after Kyle Magennis switched to Hibs, leaving St Mirren boss Jim Goodwin looking for someone to fill a midfield void.
Doyle-Hayes arrived in Paisley in November last year and helped them arrest the poor form that had seen them struggling to turnaround a run of league losses. He contributed to a draw against Dundee United on his debut and went on to be a key player in turning the tide as the Paisley men pieced together nine games without defeat and found themselves in two cup semi-finals and unfortunate not to make it into the top six at the split.
Utilised mainly as a holding midfielder, pulling the strings, breaking up attacks, he has proved himself far from wasteful with his passes. An 80 per cent passing success rate throughout the course of his time at St Mirren – matching that of Irvine during his time at Hibs – he is also a useful box-to-box player, with energy and assists as well as the odd goal.