Saturday 20 July 2019

'I haven't played there since 2013' - Ex-Kildare star Johnny Doyle making Croke Park comeback at 41

The evergreen 41-year-old made an instant impact after being drafted in as a sub in his county’s recent Leinster semi-final against Longford. Picture credit: Ray McManus / Sportsfile
The evergreen 41-year-old made an instant impact after being drafted in as a sub in his county’s recent Leinster semi-final against Longford. Picture credit: Ray McManus / Sportsfile

Paddy Hickey

Almost six years since he last graced Croke Park, Kildare stalwart Johnny Doyle is set to line out again at headquarters this Sunday.

Called up to the Lilywhites' junior panel last month, the evergreen 41-year-old made an instant impact after being drafted in as a sub in his county's recent Leinster semi-final against Longford.

And the Allenwood ace, who was given his chance by team boss Declan McGrath early in the second half, showed that he has lost none of his deadly scoring prowess by shooting three points in the 1-18 to 1-9 success.

That result sealed a provincial final showdown with Meath, 0-17 to 2-10 winners over Louth in the other semi-final tie - and as a curtain-raiser to Sunday's Leinster senior football final between Dublin and Meath.

"Obviously it was great to get the win over Longford, and it's fantastic that we'll be playing the final at Croke Park, and before the Leinster senior final," enthused Doyle who brought the curtain down on his illustrious senior career with the Lilywhites in April 2014.

"I haven't played in Croke Park since I was involved in the International Rules Series game against Australia, in October 2013.

"As in the format in the Series, I had been on and off a few times in that game, and then with about 10 minutes when we were well in front, I asked (Ireland manager) Paul Earley if I could have another run on the pitch, as I felt it would be my last time playing there.

"Paul obliged and now it's a dream come true for me to be going back to Croke Park once more with a chance of being involved there in a playing capacity," added the 2010 All-Star.

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Since informing then Kildare manager Jason Ryan that he was calling time on his inter-county career just over six years ago, Doyle has nevertheless been soldiering on in club football.

"The way I look at it is that you'll be standing on the sideline long enough, and if you're enjoying and getting your satisfaction from playing, why not keep at it for as long as you can," pointed out Doyle, who played 154 games for Kildare between 2000 and 2014.

"Obviously being involved with your club doesn't demand the massive amount of commitment that is required at inter-county level, and since retiring from Kildare I've kept in good physical shape by training on a regular basis and by also doing a bit of work on my own.

"And it's a big help, maybe as a result of my genes, that I don't have any problem with keeping my weight down."

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