The tough Tipperary hurler, holder of eight All-Ireland medals, was a true legend of the game, says Sean Ryan
Published 02/01/2011 | 05:00
JOHN DOYLE, who died last Wednesday aged 80, was a true legend of Tipperary hurling.
In a top-class career which began at age 19 in 1949 and continued until his retirement after an All-Ireland defeat by Kilkenny 18 years later, Doyle amassed a record haul of medals -- eight All-Ireland, 11 National League -- and was subsequently voted into the GAA's Hall of Fame, Team of the Century and Team of the Millennium.
A farmer from Holycross, he was a big tough man, who could hurl too, and was a good striker. His play was marked by great determination, and a surprising turn of pace. In training, nobody beat him in the sprints. His long stride just ate up the ground.
Hurling was a different game in the Forties, Fifties and Sixties, with forwards allowed to rush the goalkeeper and put him into the net. As a result, the first duty of defenders such as Doyle was to defend their 'keeper.
In the Munster final of 1960, Doyle and Cork forward Paddy Barry had a great scrap. They put down their hurls and adopted the Marquess of Queensberry rules, while the referee ignored them and the play went on around them. It was the proverbial Munster final where the ball went out of play, but the match went on.
Such incidents are an integral part of the Doyle legend.
Doyle first came to prominence as a minor, helping Tipperary to an All-Ireland title in 1947. The following year, he helped his club, Holycross-Ballycahill, to win the county title and, as a result, he was promoted to the county senior team in 1949.
He was in the left corner of a back line that included Mick (The Rattler) Byrne and Tony Brennan, in a team captained by his clubmate, Pat Stakelum, and Tipp went on to win the first of three in a row.
After a sojourn at left-half-back, which yielded two more All-Irelands in 1958 and '61, Doyle moved back to the right-corner for his final four All-Ireland finals, winning three in '62, '64 and '65.
In this latter phase he teamed up with Kieran Carey and Michael Maher in a line that became known as Hell's Kitchen for the warmth of the reception they gave to opposing forwards. Nonetheless, Doyle was voted Hurler of the Year in 1964.
After his retirement, he kept up his involvement with the game, becoming a Tipperary selector, a member of the GAA's Central Council and a member of the county board.
He put himself forward for the Dail but wasn't successful. He was subsequently elected to the Seanad, where he served from 1969 to 1973.
A friendly, approachable man, who will be missed by all followers of hurling, Doyle had been in poor health in recent years. He is survived by his wife Anne, two sons and five daughters. His eldest son Michael won a Munster Championship medal with Tipperary in 1987.