Tribute to John Doyle – late and great Kerry Soccer legend
A Tribute to a fallen legend – a true great of Kerry soccer
By Murt Murphy
The phone rang during the week – I glanced at the caller ID and my heart sank because there was only one reason, why this man would call me – I answered it and yes it was the four words I dreaded “Doyler just passed away” – John Doyle, one of the greatest players to ever grace a Kerry soccer pitch, one of the strongest, most creative, most intelligent and one of the bravest and fiercest competitors to ever pull on a hooped shirt, had lost his battle for life.
How could this be, I was now angry, I was confused, I was being selfish – I had watched and admired and reported on so many of the his big games, marvelled at his leadership qualities, loved his passion and his humility, I just loved watching Doyler play and as he moved into the twilight years of his career and he played at the back, I marvelled at his endurance and I thought this man is indestructible.
Then in April 2011 I heard of his illness and I along with anyone in the soccer family who knew Doyler were devastated but secretly, desperately in our minds we were thinking, if there is one man who can beat Leukaemia, then it’s Doyler. He felled many a bigger opponent on the field of play, he beat the odds so many times, he rallied his Celtic team-mates when heads were dropping, and somehow John will pull through. I remember going to meetings in Celtic Park when two Killarney soccer clubs Killarney Celtic and Killarney Athletic and Spa GAA Club joined forces on New Years Eve 2011 to raise funds for John Doyle.
The fundraiser consisted of two soccer matches, one between the ‘Legends’ of deadly rivals Celtic and Athletic and a unique match between the present day members of Killarney Celtic soccer club and Spa GAA club, which is the first game ever in the county between a soccer team and a GAA team!
But John Doyle , who was playing with Killarney Celtic in Denny Premier A nine short months earlier that year until diagnosed with Leukaemia that April at the young age of 37, always had the ability to unite both codes and played both at the top level for many years with both Celtic and Spa.
In fact back in 1992 he helped St Brendan’s Killarney capture the All-Ireland Senior Colleges Hogan Cup, with Kerry legend Seamus Moynihan and Moynihan was present to guest with Spa, and helps raise funds for his former team-mate and friend.
Despite the rain, a huge crowd turned up to Celtic Park for the two games and the auction, with Shamrock Rovers star Billy Dennehy proving to be a big hit, both on and off the field as emotions ran high as the thoughts of all were focussed on supporting John Doyle in the biggest challenge he had ever faced, on or off the field. Certainly the affection and esteem that Doyler was held must have given him a great lift as he began his battle for life.
Remember the auction that night -At half time in the second game there was an auction which included a Kerry Jersey with the new Logo and signed by Colm Cooper which fetched €1,000, Roy Keane framed Manchester United Jersey (€500), a Stephen Cluxton signed Dublin goal keeper jersey (€500) signed Irish Jersey (€380), a signed Munster Jersey (€340) Billy Dennehy signed Europa League Jersey (€220), tee flag signed by winner of the Irish Open ( €170) signed Glasgow Celtic Jersey (€140)- it just showed the generosity of the sporting public and the affection that was felt for Doyler.
There will be another time for reflecting on what he won down the years but lets just give a brief run down on Doyler the player – Doyler” as he is known to all in the game, played underage and senior football with Spa, a club on the East side of Killarney and was so good that he was a central player when St Brendan’s College Killarney won the All-Ireland Hogan Cup in 1992. In fact Doyler scored two points on that day, and claims to have begun the glittering career of Kerry legend Seamus Moynihan, who was one of the leading lights on that team. A great anecdote is told about when the shy and very quiet Doyler would be having a few pints with the lads after another win and inevitably the question would be asked of Doyler – How good a footballer were you? Doyler would never boast about how good he was at anything when sober – but once the tongue was loosened – he was good for a few quotes! He was asked what did Seamus Moynihan say in the dressingroom at half time in the Hogan Cup Final – what was his inspirational team talk ? Doyler with a glint in his eye would tell all who wished to listen “Moynihan just told the lads – If we want to win this game in the second half lads, just f**king give the ball to Doyler and he will do the rest”!!!
Doyler mixed both football and soccer until the mid 2000’s when the body was telling him, it will take only one, so he became fully committed to Killarney Celtic, helping them to win the Premier League/KO Cup double and numerous titles over the years, including the 2010 League title.
Doyler played his last game with Killarney Celtic’s B team, at the end of March 2011, and two weeks later, tests revealed that he had leukaemia- and since then he has fought an incredible fight, against a deadly disease and at times it appeared he was winning the battle but Thursday morning last John Doyle lost his courageous battle for life.
So Doyler on behalf of the soccer community we mourn your passing – I know the word legend is too easily bandied about but in John Doyle’s case its for real – just any of the Dynamos, Park, Athletic or Lisselton Rovers lads who played against him . John Doyle will always be remembered in Kerry soccer for his excellence, his dedication and his sportsmanship to the game. No greater tribute can be paid to a man – than when your foes or opponents on the field – eulogise on your greatness.
To Lynda, Ruth and the Doyle family our heartfelt sympathies – and while Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.- We all have some great memories of John – a true gentleman and outstanding sportsman.
We will in the days ahead remember with fondness “Doyler” and in dark days that lie ahead for the family lets not forget them in our thoughts and in our prayers.
I will finish with a few lines of a poem I learned back in the day
Good-night! Good-night! As we so oft have said
beneath this roof at midnight, in the days
that are no more, and shall no more return.
Thou hast but taken up thy lamp and gone to bed;
I stay a little longer, as one stays
To cover up the embers that still burn.
So farewell John for now – and I am comforted in the lines from Thomas Campbell, and the “Hallowed Ground
“To live in hearts we leave behind
Is not to die”
Murt Murphy – Kerry District League