Sunday 30 April 2017

Lilywhites skipper Doyle desperate to reward faith of boss O'Neill

Kildare football manager Cian O'Neill. Picture credit: Sam Barnes / Sportsfile
Kildare football manager Cian O'Neill. Picture credit: Sam Barnes / Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Eyebrows were raised when Eoin Doyle was named Kildare captain for 2016 but after overcoming his injury nightmare the Naas defender is ready to make his first start of the season against Wexford.

Lilywhites boss Cian O'Neill clearly holds him in high regard and Doyle, who studied under O'Neill during his college days at the University of Limerick, was named skipper despite facing a spell on the sidelines.

His inclusion for today's clash came with similar surprise as barring a brief cameo in a challenge game against Laois, he has spent more time in the gym at Kildare GAA's centre of excellence in Hawkfield than on the pitch with the squad.

Osteitis pubis, which he first suffered from in 2013, was restricting his influence with small tasks like getting out of the car or putting his foot on the clutch causing agony.

But O'Neill afforded him the time to recover and what better place to return than Croke Park, where he played his last competitive game for Ireland in the International Rules series last November, and repay the patience of his former thesis tutor, and current mentor.

"When he knew I was injured, with a serious enough injury, he could have went elsewhere with the leaders within the group but I'm obviously very glad that he didn't," he says.

"Being made captain, you want to be out there fighting for a position and trying to show why you were made captain in the first place but it wasn't to be and that was a challenge."

Impression

O'Neill returned to his native Kildare with a glowing CV, after successful stints with Tipperary's hurlers and the footballers of Mayo and Kerry, and he's already left a lasting impression on his young squad.

"He is a shrewd operator, he knows what he wants," Doyle says. "Everything is new and we have a lot of new players between U-21s and club players brought back in. It has freshened everything up so you are starting from scratch.

"With Cian he has new ideas, new ways of doing things. All that takes a bit of time to roll out and for us players to get used to it all. It was never going to be a quick fix, but we are in the right hands and we are going in the right direction.

"He's a Kildare man, a Newbridge man and we lent him out to other counties and he brought success to them. He's been able to impart his knowledge to other set-ups and we're delighted to have him back in Kildare, imparting that knowledge on us and trying to bring us to the next level."

Doyle believes the time is right for this talented squad to stand up and be counted.

"You have to get away from the idea of potential. You want people to say you actually are a good team," he says candidly.

"We have been striving to do that, but we have come up short. We're in the right hands and have everything in place to get where we want to go to."

Irish Independent

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