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Three or four ‘wilderness’ years were the making of late-starter Boyle – Varley

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Mayo's Colm Boyle has called time on his inter-county career. Photo: Sportsfile

Mayo's Colm Boyle has called time on his inter-county career. Photo: Sportsfile

Mayo's Colm Boyle has called time on his inter-county career. Photo: Sportsfile

The best description Enda Varley can conjure for the treatment Fintan Goold inflicted on Colm Boyle in the 2006 All-Ireland U-21 final is a “scutching”.

Not a lot of people will remember this,” says Varley, who played with Boyle at minor, U-21 and senior with Mayo and at school with St Colman’s, “but Colm was taken off at half-time in that game”.

Two years later, Boyle was drafted into the Mayo senior squad, wherein John O’Mahony trialled him as a corner-back and discarded him almost as quickly.

“He was let go then and he was three or four years, effectively, out in the wilderness,” Varley recalls.

Under O’Mahony, Boyle’s only subsequent appearance for Mayo was against Westmeath in the third round of the 2009 league. He did, however, win a Mayo intermediate championship with Davitt’s in 2011, powered by a much-enhanced physique.

“He transformed his body,” Varley recalls.

“He wouldn’t be naturally built. He just put in the time in terms of the gym and building himself up. And he came in in ’12 on a mission.”

In March of that year, Mayo met Cork in Castlebar in round six of the league. Boyle was selected to start on, as luck would have it, Goold.

Varley chuckles now at the memory. “Let’s just say, he wanted retribution for the 21 final,” he says.

“It would have been said a lot that he was a poor defender,” adds Varley. “(James) Horan would have been straight about that, but Colm would have taken that as a challenge. He’d go after that.

“He would have been 25 by 2012. He was a grown man at that stage, but those years in between were a grind. He just put in the time. He had the dedication.

“He ended up with a 10-year career but, really, he only started when he was 25.”

Varley has a theory, too, for why the Mayo support took Boyle so snuggly to their collective bosom.

Four All-Stars and eight Connacht medals tell their own tale of consistent high-level performances.

But Boyle’s abrasive style captured the public imagination on a more primal level.

“I’ll never forget a league game against Dublin,” Varley remembers. “There was a 50/50 ball between Colm and one of the Dublin players. His hand was being held back and Colm just launched himself with his head at a ball on the ground!

“I’ll never forget Horan. He turned around and just started smirking.

“People loved him for that,” he adds. “For his commitment. He was just outrageous in that regard.

“That’s why Mayo people fell in love with him. When you play for Mayo, you’re an extension of the Mayo public.

“And people love to see those traits in players, traits they’d like to see in themselves.”

Boyle and Varley started together in the 2012 All-Ireland loss to Donegal, the first of Mayo’s seven final appearances in the last decade.

As it stands, just five of that team remain. Boyle’s retirement means that yet another Mayo legend leaves the inter-county arena without the closure of an All-Ireland medal. 

“Individually, I think Mayo were good enough to win an All-Ireland, “ says Varley. “But I don’t think collectively we were.

“Dublin, they always knew what they wanted to do at every stage in games during those (Jim) Gavin years.

“The number of close games they won, there’s too many of them for it not to be the way they were coached. That was drilled into them. That’s what separated them from the rest of the country.”

Varley insists: “It’s definitely not for a lack of quality that Colm finished without an All-Ireland medal.”


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