Republic's Keane stunned by Doyle progress
Republic of Ireland skipper Robbie Keane is amazed by the rapid rise to stardom of forward partner Kevin Doyle.
Doyle has the perfect opportunity to score his first goal for his country when Ireland face Group D whipping boys San Marino tomorrow at Lansdowne Road in a Euro 2008 qualifier.
Although he is yet to find the net after four appearances for Ireland, it appears only a matter of time for a player who is fast making his mark in the Premiership.
The 23-year-old has already scored five in 12 matches, defying the critics who felt he would struggle this term after bagging 18 last season en route to the Royals winning the Championship.
There is no doubt Doyle represents the bargain signing of manager Steve Coppell's three-year reign after being snapped up for just £80,000 from eircom League side Cork City in June 2005.
Doyle certainly put one over on Keane on Sunday, scoring Reading's third goal in a 3-1 league win over Tottenham at the Madejski Stadium.
'He was brilliant, and he deserved his goal,' reflected Keane.
'His movement, running off the ball and work rate for the team were tremendous.
'His is a great story, to do as well as he has done so far after coming from the league of Ireland. All credit to him.
'Hopefully it will continue and give other league of Ireland players belief, knowing if they work hard then they can achieve what Kevin has achieved.'
Keane concedes, though, he had barely heard of Doyle when he first signed for Reading, adding: 'To be honest I didn't know too much about him.
'But any Irish player in England you always watch out for, and you soon heard about him when he was banging in the goals.'
When asked whether he was surprised at just how quickly Doyle has progressed, he replied: 'Of course you are.
'When he was in the Championship scoring all those goals, people said his second season would be more difficult.
'But he is proving them wrong. He is not only scoring goals, but he has been a handful for some defenders.'
As Ledley King can testify, with Keane explaining: 'After the game on Sunday, Ledley - for me one of the best defenders in England - said Kevin was one of the toughest players he has played against this season.
'He said it's not about when he has the ball, it's about when he hasn't got it, running into the channels and that makes him hard for defenders to mark.'
The Irish supporters will be anticipating plenty of goals against San Marino, who have suffered 13-0 and 7-0 defeats by Germany and the Czech Republic in their two games to date.
Not only will Doyle be looking to get off the mark, but Ireland's all-time leading goalscorer in Keane has scored just once in his last eight internationals.
'There's always pressure to score goals no matter who you play against,' insisted Keane.
'Obviously people are expecting us to score goals against San Marino because of how many they have already conceded.
'Whether we get the opportunities and whether it's me, Kevin or anybody else who scores, the most important thing is winning the game.'
Fellow striker Clinton Morrison is a doubt after limping out of training at Lansdowne Road today with a shin injury sustained in an accidental collision with Birmingham full-back Stephen Kelly.
Morrison is struggling for a place on the bench, with Staunton stating: 'It's now a matter of time, but he's going to be sore with bone bruising, which is never nice.
'We will have to wait and see how he is tomorrow. Stephen took a rap as well, but he's not as bad as Clinton.'
Doyle's return is one of three changes to the team that drew 1-1 with the Czech Republic in Dublin nearly five weeks ago.
The 23-year-old and goalkeeper Shay Given are back after injury, while Richard Dunne bolsters the centre of defence after serving a one-match suspension.
Team: Given, O'Shea, McShane, Dunne, Finnan, Duff, Carsley, Reid, Kilbane, Keane, Doyle.