Marriage made in heaven: Why Hibs' Jake Doyle-Hayes has plenty to smile about on and off the pitch

It is a week Jake Doyle-Hayes is unlikely to forget. After receiving a ‘yes’ from his girlfriend after he proposed on a rose and candle festooned London rooftop on Monday, he celebrated combining his competitive debut for Hibs with his first taste of European football on Thursday.

The Conference League qualifying tie, against Santa Coloma, in Andorra, gave him another evening to celebrate and while the 22 year-old Irishman diplomatically refused to compare the events, he confessed there had been a lot of nervous excitement to contend with in the build up to both.

“I am very happy,” he said of Aurelija’s decision to accept his marriage proposal. “I am not going to lie, I was very nervous but everything went well.”

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Just a couple of days later he had others to impress as he was given his first competitive start since joining the Leith club in the summer but did well as Hibs won 2-1 to progress to the next round with a 5-1 aggregate score. There they will meet Rijeka, of Croatia.

Hibs midfielder Jake Doyle-Hayes was delighted to make his competitive debut for the Easter Road club on Thursday. Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group

“It was an unbelievable experience. I have never been here before, so it is unbelievable to play in these games.

“It is a different pressure playing in a European game, but I am absolutely delighted.

“Making my debut in any game for this club is a very proud moment for me and my family.”

Looking to benefit from the midfielder’s energy and smart use of the ball, manager Jack Ross had informed him earlier in the week that he would be starting.

“I was delighted to be out there in this jersey and at the end of the day progress to the next round,” said Doyle-Hayes, who lasted 72 minutes before being replaced by Dan Mackay.

“It was tough conditions but I think for large parts of it we controlled the game and played at our own tempo.

“Playing so early after pre-season, sometimes it can be tricky coming to these places, and I know we conceded and everyone was disappointed with that, but we bounced back and scored another couple.

“I think it was a really professional performance at the end of the day.”

The former Aston Villa youngster joined Hibs from St Mirren in July and although he recently had to deal with a minor hamstring setback, a solid training block spell prior to that has given him a strong base to build from as he heads into the new campaign with Sunday’s opening match against Motherwell.

That level of preparation is something he didn’t have last term, after he was released in the summer and had to keep himself ticking over until finally signing for the Paisley side in November. It left him playing catch up when it came to match fitness.

“Yeah 100 per cent. Getting that pre-season into me and gelling with the lads helps a lot. Last season I just had to keep myself fit at home and that was far from ideal.

“I just got my head down and worked hard but I am delighted I got everything sorted so early [this year]. Hopefully I can hit the ground running.

“It definitely helps getting the pre-season in as you learn what the gaffer wants and hopefully I can chip in with a few more goals and assists.”

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