Irish soccer striker Kevin Doyle a star in every way




Kevin Doyle is going to make the most of his absence from the World Cup finals with the Ireland team this summer. He’s going to get married.

On the day that Mexico face the hosts South Africa in the opening game of the 2010 tournament, Doyle will be walking down the aisle of a Limerick church with his new wife Jennifer at his side.

Still annoyed at the manner in which Thierry Henry handed World Cup qualification on a plate to the French in Paris last November, Doyle is not going to dwell on his anger.

He told us as much in the swanky Shelbourne Hotel last week when he flew into Dublin to promote the ESPN satellite sports channel and proved, once again, that he is one of the good guys of Irish sport.

Doyle, by the way, is not a man used to the swanky things in life. He comes from a very decent and very ordinary family in Co. Wexford and he appreciates the good things in life, not the expensive things.

This, after all, is the man who met his bride to be in a beer tent at the National Ploughing Championship -- surely the only Premier League star to have met his future wife in such surroundings!

He also knows what it is like to struggle to establish yourself as a top sportsman, having spent a number of seasons in the League of Ireland awaiting his big break, first with St. Patrick’s Athletic and then with Cork City.

Even when he was at Reading, Doyle know how lucky he was to get that chance at the Madejski Stadium when it came his way five years ago or so, and boy has he made the most of it.

He is now one of the best strikers outside of the top four clubs in the English league, he has a nice apartment in Birmingham, a nice car in the garage and planning permission in for a big house in his native Wexford.

It would be easy for Doyle to rest on his laurels. His club boss Mick McCarthy loves him and spent two hours last summer telling Doyle why he was right for Wolves and vice versa.

It was, Doyle told us again in Dublin last week, the longest he has ever chatted to any manager, and their talk wasn’t just of football.

Mick and Kevin shot the breeze that day, and all the former Irish manager did was tell Doyle the truth. If he came to Wolves and did well he would play every week and improve. If he didn’t he would be left out of the team.

“It was the most honest conversation I ever had with any football manager and the longest, and to be fair to Mick he has been true to his word,” Doyle said.

Mick’s not stupid by the way, no matter what side you were on in that civil war all those years ago.

When he splashed out $10 million on the 26-year-old in the summer he knew it was money well spent.

“Kevin Doyle is a player, a real player,” Mick told me on Monday when I told him how complimentary his player had been about his manager.

“He could play for any of the top teams in England, Spain or Italy and he would bag goals for them, lots of goals. He is getting better all the time and he has a great future ahead of him.”

Doyle knows there is still room for improvement. “I do believe that my best years are ahead of me with club and country and I am doing everything I can in all areas of my life to ensure that is the case,” he continued.

“I don’t like talking about myself, but this season at Wolves is the best I have played in my career. Anyone who has seen our matches will now that I am really enjoying my football and I am playing very well.

“I don’t usually say things like that about myself but this season has been good. I am fitter and stronger at Wolves. We work harder there and I have to look after myself better generally all round, in how I eat and how I live.

“I am learning to prepare myself better for matches. I am more confident in how I do things. It is getting better.”

Just to prove he will do anything he can to maximize his talent, Doyle explained how he has taken to watching what he eats, down to the last detail.

He is meticulous in his planning now, so much so that wife to be Jennifer has to be very particular about what she puts on the table.

And just to prove it, this is one Mrs. Doyle who won’t be able to serve up the tea and biscuits once she too walks down that aisle in June.

“It’s all about my diet and the little things that can make a difference like not eating biscuits any more. Just simple things like not touching a biscuit,” laughed Doyle as the media stared guiltily as the leftovers from the coffee and biscuits devoured in the corner of the room.

Such dedication will come as no surprise to those who know Kevin Doyle. Thierry Henry may have taken the biscuit in Paris, but I have a sneaking feeling that this young Irishman will get to taste the World Cup stage before his career is over.

An hour in his company in the Shelbourne last week just added to that feeling.

At a time when Trap seems prepared to cap a load of English cast-offs like Kevin Nolan, it is good to know we still have a few decent Irishmen to rely on going forward.

And going forward there are few better than Kevin Doyle right now.

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