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After a 7-year absence, the man sold for £1 is back in the Ireland fold

Cork-born goalkeeper Colin Doyle admits being slightly surprised by his first call-up since 2009.

Doyle chatting to the media today.
Doyle chatting to the media today.
Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

A FEW THINGS have changed since Colin Doyle’s last involvement with the Ireland senior set-up.

Until this week, the World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria way back in June 2009 was the Cork-born goalkeeper’s most recent inclusion.

At that time, Giovanni Trapattoni still held the manager’s position and stalwarts like Shay Given, Richard Dunne and Robbie Keane were the spine of the team.

Back then, the team trained at Gannon Park in Malahide and stayed at the nearby Portmarnock Hotel.

Those big names have all departed, while it’s the FAI’s National Training Centre in Abbottstown and the Castleknock Hotel & Country Club that are called home these days — a development that initially caught Doyle out when he landed in Dublin earlier this week.

“Yeah, it’s pleasing,” the 31-year-old said of his return today. “It’s different from my last call-up in ‘09. We trained in Portmarnock last time and I thought I’d be arriving there!”

But Doyle isn’t exactly a stranger to the international fold. Having come up through the ranks, he made his senior debut for the Boys in Green against Ecuador during that now infamous US tour under Steve Staunton in 2007.

However, he hasn’t been able to add to that solitary cap and fell further down the pecking order with the emergence of talented goalkeepers like Darren Randolph, David Forde, Keiren Westwood and Rob Elliot.

Colin Doyle His only senior international cap was against Ecuador in May 2007. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

He joined Birmingham City’s academy from Douglas Hall back in 2001 and spent 13 years on their books — playing a pivotal role in the club’s promotion to the Premier League in 2007 (he was compared to Petr Cech around that time) without ever managing to make the number one shirt his own.

After several loan spells, Doyle left permanently to join League One outfit Blackpool last year where he became captain and made 33 appearances but couldn’t prevent their relegation.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Birmingham and I’ve got to be grateful as they gave me my chance in English football,” says Doyle.

In hindsight, I probably could’ve left a few years earlier to get first team football because the last year or so got a bit stale as I was playing the odd couple game here and there.

“In the end I left and played at Blackpool last year and I’m playing at Bradford now.

“If I was still at Birmingham sitting on the bench I probably wouldn’t be here today. So the move has done me in good stead.”

Bradford City came calling last summer and Doyle was glad to be offered the opportunity to remain English football’s third tier. The transfer hit the headlines as it was agreed for an unusual fee — £1.

“It was one of those clauses where they said ‘if we get relegated you can go on a free’,” he explains. “But because I had signed a two-year deal, the FA wouldn’t let me go on a free so there had to be some sort of fee.

“We just said £1 and they agreed to it. I think they paid it so I’m still waiting for my 10%. I must chase that up.”

Bradford City v Burnley - Pre-Season Friendly - Coral Windows Stadium Doyle in action for Bradford City. Source: Dave Howarth

Under Stuart McCall, the Bantams are going well this term and currently sit third in the division with Doyle in good form.

Ireland’s goalkeeping coach Seamus McDonagh went to watch him play on a couple of occasions and there are places up for grabs with Given retired, Forde out-of-favour and Elliot yet to fully recover from a serious knee injury.

Even still, this Ireland return has come as something of a surprise to the player himself, who initially received the news through a friend.

“The club didn’t tell me at first to be honest because they didn’t realise you release the provisional squad to the press,” adds Doyle. “So they were just not going to tell me in case I wasn’t in the full squad.

It got announced that I was in the provisional and my mate texted me to say ‘congratulations’ with a picture of an Ireland flag. I put two and two together, then I got a phone call on Sunday to say they wanted me in the squad.

“It was what I wanted as the last couple of years I’ve been playing well. I got my move to Bradford and we’ve started well so I was pleased and I was hoping to get back into the Irish squad and now I’ve got that chance.”

Randolph goes into Saturday’s clash with Austria as the undisputed first choice and Westwood will be the West Ham stopper’s back-up, but Doyle is intent on grabbing the opportunity to show that he deserves to stick around.

“My aim is to stay in the squad,” he says. “Whether it’s as one, two or three, I want to be in that three.

“Martin and Roy have probably never seen me play. Seamus is probably the only one who has.

“It’s what I’ve got to do here when we play little games, in shooting… I’ve got to try and impress. If I do that then hopefully I’ve a chance of making future squads.”

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Ben Blake

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