Monday 24 October 2016

Doyle in flying form for Euros

Veteran striker 'fitter than ever' after injury comeback

Kevin Doyle
Kevin Doyle
Kevin Doyle is stretchered off the pitch during Ireland’s friendly against Switzerland last March

Kevin Doyle won't be anxiously clutching his phone to find out the news when Martin O'Neill names his squad at noon tomorrow for the upcoming friendly games which lead in to Euro 2016.

For starters, he will still be asleep when O'Neill informs the public the players of who are in his thoughts, Doyle's body clock switched on to Denver time, as you'd expect from a man who earns his living in the USA these days.

He's entitled to be nervous as Doyle is one of those Ireland internationals who has a chance, but not a cast-iron guarantee, of making it onto the plane for Euro 2016. Age and experience has taught the 32-year-old a great deal, so he's not getting stressed this week, about his chances of facing the Dutch in a friendly later this month or the bigger task of getting the nod for the 23-man squad.

For Doyle, it's a relief to just be in contention, as a nasty shin injury, which he picked up while on international duty two months ago, threatened to end his European ambitions.

The Wexford man made a rapid recovery from that injury, defied medical logic with a return to action and he's played in the last three games for his club with two more MLS games on the way this week (one tonight), his mood improved by the fact that his club, Colorado Rapids, are top of the table in their division in the MLS.

"I don't know if I will get picked, for the two friendly games or the actual squad for the Euros, but I can at least try to be as prepared as I can be," Doyle told The Herald from his Denver base this week.

"I don't know if I can do any more and I am very relaxed about it all. I have no idea if I'll make the squad, my focus was on getting back fit and playing some games for my club before the squad was picked and I have done that, I am back in shape and have scored, I feel as fit as ever and I am in a team that's doing well in the league which can't do me any harm.

"What happens, happens if I get picked then great but if I don't, then I will go on playing for the club, I would love to go to France but I have no idea."

It looked grim for Doyle when he was stretchered off during that game against Switzerland, the injury ruining what was a big night and a rare start for the veteran, but he's pleased with how far he's come.

"Just being physically fit is great, I worked really hard over the last two weeks to get back fit and the team are doing well now, which is a bonus," he says.

"I knew I wouldn't be out too long, I just didn't know how quickly I could get back but I ended up being back as soon as physically possible.

"Seeing the injury that night in Dublin there's no way I expected to be back playing in four weeks but I managed it, I was very lucky. I was unlucky to get the injury the way I did but I also feel fortunate to be back playing with no ill-effects, I back in the swing of things, I am not shying out of tackles or easing off subconsciously."

Thoughts of Euro 2016 gave Doyle extra motivation. "The Euros was a factor for me, it was an added incentive. I needed to be right when I came back so I was never going to take a risk but when you're sitting in the physio room and watching everyone else train, that's motivation in itself to go and do a bit more in the gym, even if it's just doing upper body weights, just to be doing something as there was a carrot there with the Euros," he added.

"There are still Premier League games to go, you don't know who's going to be fit and who's going to be injured. the manager has to be fair to everyone and give people a chance to get fit, as happened with Robbie getting back with Galaxy this week. A lot of players have had niggles but he wants to give everyone as long as possible, I know teams will start to name their squads this week but I can understand if Martin leaves it until as late as he can. I have a couple of games, two this week, so if I am picked I will be in good shape."

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