Jake Doyle-Hayes reflects on first Euro experience with Hibs and calls for response against Kilmarnock
When Hibs’ European ambitions tumbled and hit the turf on Thursday, they smacked the ground hard.
Admitting that the emotional bruising will take time to heal, midfielder Jake Doyle-Hayes says the best way to salve the pain and ensure that they can have another shot at Europe next season is to pick themselves up and ensure they return to winning ways this weekend.
On Sunday they face Kilmarnock in their first League Cup tie of this term and having stumbled at the semi-final stage last season, the squad is determined to piece together another prolonged cup run in the hope they can deliver silverware at the end of this campaign.
To do so they will have to find a way to channel their European disappointment positively.
“This has been my first experience,” said the Irishman, who joined the Leith club this summer, “and it has been an unbelievable experience. It has been really enjoyable and it is different from just playing in the league. I know all the boys are hungry to hopefully finish in the top places this season. That is the target but we will have to see how the season goes. We have to take it game by game and push to finish as high as possible.
“It’s hard, very hard to take. It is still so fresh, so soon after the game but everyone in the squad is so disappointed. It was a tough night all around. We got back in the game at 1-1 but we have to learn from these things. We are a young squad so we will be back. The most important thing is that, on Sunday, we bounce back and hopefully put in a good performance.
“I think we have a good mentality within the group and we know that is the most important thing.
“The fact that in the first game we dominated well and in this game they had a lot more of the ball than they did last week but as a team we found a way, after we had gone 1-0 down, to bounce back and we got the goal back and that is a positive.
“We were backs against the wall for a bit but we were able to grit our teeth and dug deep to get that goal and get back in the game and that shows that the squad has a great mentality. I know we conceded the goals at the end and that is really disappointing but I know, as a squad, that we are going to bounce back and hopefully get a positive result on Sunday.”
Excused from the League Cup group games this year as they instead focused on their Europa Conference League qualifiers, the Leith side enter the tournament at the start of the knock-out rounds, happy to be back in action so soon after the Rijeka defeat and keen to sluice the lingering disappointment from their minds.
“It will be a very tough game,” according to Doyle-Hayes, “but we obviously want to go as far as we can in every single competition. For me, when I look around this group I can’t see why we can’t do that. I’m just looking forward to getting back out on the pitch and putting things right.”