Doyle, Tommy

13 August 1993
Tommy Doyle still marching his way into Kerry G.A.A. Folklore and there’s more to come for the Annascaul Legend.


Scaling the heights of his football genius, Kerry old boy Tommy Doyle was poetry in motion. Winner of seven Senior All-Ireland medals, three times an All-Star and more besides, the pride and passion of playing for Mick O’Dwyer was epitomised by the Annascaul ace with rhythmic ease.

Out of the same Annascaul stable which produced a real thoroughbred before him in the great Paddy Kennedy and a West Kerry neighbour in legendary Paddy "Bawn" Brosnan, former Armyman Doyle is himself now marching his way into Kerry G.A.A. folklore. Those that believed that the stylish defender was closing the book on a magnificent career back in 1989 when he finished with Kerry Seniors have been forced into a re-think. By his actions and deeds since, the ever-youthful Doyle has added on several chapters since and before ’93 is over and done with may well add on another one!

Tommy Doyle is the kind of man the Defence Forces ought to have extended a life contract to on foot of his obvious public relations talents. He’s the sort of fella you’d want on your side in a war anyway and as legions of players have found out over the last couple of decades, he’s the kind of operator best by-passed on the field of play.

A Sales Representative based in Cork city with Deasy’s Mineral Waters, Tommy is still the picture of health and as Annascaul’s inspirational centre half back he’s doing a real fine job as leader of the most progressive footballing side in the Kingdom over the last couple of seasons.

For the last decade and more. He’s been using his broad shoulders to good effect, especially around his home village of some 700 people. The way it’s perceived down in the Kingdom is that on the playing field at least, Tommy Doyle has carried Annascaul on his back for years in much the same way that Paidi O’Se has been doing something with An Gaeltacht. The record books, local opinion and Croke Park performances lend their weight to such a theory for the younger Doyle was winning All-Ireland’s with Micko when Annascaul were playing their wares in Division Four and Division Three of the Kerry Leagues. At one time Annascaul were in Division Five, not so many noons ago and Doyle was with them at the heart of things. Now Annascaul are in Division one, in the Senior Championship semi finals and are playing out of their skins.

A couple of weeks back Annascaul beat West Kerry in the quarter final of the Kerry Championship. It was reported to have been one of the best Championship games played in years in the Kingdom but the value of Annascaul’s surprise 0-12 to 0-8 win was only superseded by the significance of Annascaul’s continued rise and rise as a football stronghold in Kerry. You see, Tommy Doyle and Company’s victory over the might of Paidi O’Se, Sean Geeney and Darragh Kennedy powered troupe was a bit like Eire Og of Carlow actually winning the All-Ireland club. Nay. A bit like Thomas Davis of Tallaght beating the Dubs in a competitive match. For years upon years, you see, Annascaul’s best played for West Kerry in the Senior Championship. 1993 marks the first time ever Annascaul entered the Kerry Senior Championship. It’s an Annascaul-Camp amalgamation really but to call it an amalgam of forces would be a misrepresentation of gigantic proportions and would only serve to lessen the club’s achievement. At 37 years of age and the team’s player-manager Tommy is spearheading Annascaul’s challenge for a unique county final place. Already they’ve beaten Mid-Kerry, the defending county champions by eight points and West Kerry by four. A two points semi final win on August 21st will create even further waves down south.

Accepting the part played by Tommy himself and Tommy McCarthy (founder of the local Supporters Club) in the development of Annascaul as a footballer force in Kerry one wonders just what were the factors that came together to launch the small village club into a position of such prominence. "Over the last three years we’ve won everything we could have won, novice, Junior and Intermediate titles. We’ve a very young team and we’re fortunate that they’re all talented footballers, nine or ten of whom have represented the county at some grade over recent years. We’re a small club but we’ve always been hard to beat, a team with great spirit even if the panel is only made up of about eighteen lads. We have quality rather than quantity down here".

Those that live on Annascauls’ Quality Street are men like Tommy’s brother John, captain of the county Junior in ’84, Tom Sayers, David Farrell, Gene Farrell, Vincent Knightly, Mark Moynihan, Sean Driscoll and Weehsie Lynch. Quality is the operative word down in Annascaul alright and for the former captain of Tralee Vocational School’s All-Ireland winning side, it’s the only policy. I’m a firm believer that for county Championships no club should be allowed to amalgamate. Any player worth their salt will do their best for their club".

Responsible for sales in Fermoy West Cork and a small part of Kerry, Doyle first played Senior football at the age of fifteen and understandably has one or two thoughts about the standard of football in the Kingdom these days, the calibre of player around down south at present and his own personal high’s and low’s over an eventful career. A player who blossomed, grew and shone like a beacon even in the shadows of lower League football in Kerry, Tommy believes that patience will be needed by Kerry supporters as Munster titles seemingly become far from fait accompli’s as was the case in his era. "Over recent years there’s been a good influx of young talent into the Kerry squad and really it’s only a matter of time before Kerry get back on the winning track. People here will have to stop talking about winning loads of All-Irelands. They’ll have to accept the bad times but a lot of people aren’t".

Decimation by Cork at a time when most tipsters in Kerry expected their lot to at least clinch another provincial title if not All-Ireland has had Tommy Doyle under focus like never before since he found the intensity of county training a strain in 1989 and decided to concentrate on club action. Winning is good and healthy but when things become too tight for comfort frustration sets in and Tommy, a former county Minor team mate of Ogie Morgan, realises better than most just how sticky the patch is that Kerry is going through at present. "In talking about Kerry’s difficulties currently, you can’t blame the team management, players or supporters for becoming anxious. It’s going to take time to get things together but I think things have been exaggerated as regards the standard of football in Kerry at the moment".

Winner of two Kerry Senior Championship medals with West Kerry in the company of such notables as Paidi O’Se and Vincent O’Connor, Tommy is totally convinced that Kerry football isn’t quite "l’animal malade" as thought by some sections of the national media. "Some commentators tend to over exaggerate the football situation in Kerry, blessed as they are with measuring current standards with standards of the past. These expectations just aren’t on. When we were winning All-Ireland’s, the standard of club football wasn’t as high as it is now. In the days when we were winning successive Munster and All-Ireland titles, I think the underage scene around the different clubs was overlooked and instead club developments were given priority. Football was left in a downwards trend then but that’s been changed thankfully", offered the one-time county selector whose idols as a gasun are his idols of today, namely Mick O’Connell and Mick O’Dwyer.

Fortunate enough not to have sustained any long-term serious injury save an arthritic achilles heel (which hastened his decision to quit the intercounty scene nonetheless), Tommy is revelling in the thick of Kerry Senior Championship fare alongside some players who weren’t born when he first became acquainted with Munster final day. "The spirit that exists at the moment at Annascaul is similar to that which existed among the Kerry panel in my day. Even though we’re being hit by emigration, men like Tommy McCarty will bring them back from overseas to play and Johnny O’Donnell keeps bringing on the young lads from underage level".

Son of Jack Doyle of traditional music fame and Clare lady Margaret Downes, Tommy captained Kerry to All-Ireland Ireland glory in 1986 but interestingly recalls the events of ’83 with more clarity and freshness. "We had been beaten by Cork in the summer of ’83 and could have been written off for good then but having seen Dublin win the All-Ireland with thirteen men we all decided to get back together and train right through from September of that year to the following September. It paid off too because we won the double, the Championship and the League in 1984".

Long term management can’t be ruled out but on the horizon is a break at least from the playing side of things. Making way for younger talent at the club like seventeen year old Kieran O’Driscoll is on the agenda at season’s end. Perhaps surprisingly, Tommy will sign off the competitive football scene with no regrets. He insists in the best vernacular that he won’t mind in the slightest about hanging up the boots that many’s a young fella around the county would like to fill. For the meantime, he’ll work as hard as he’s ever done to maintain that old familiar loping stride, that deceptive turn of pace and that sure-footedness that would do justice to a circus hand. "When you’re winning, it’s easier to continue, to make the sacrifices. Winning is a habit like losing. It gets into your blood, simple as that".

As for the hardly highlighted little matter of an alleged push in the back suffered by the Kerry wing back in the 1982 All-Ireland final, honesty rather than diplomacy rules the day then and now. "I’ve never talked about it and never will. I was delighted to see the likes of Matt Connor collecting an All-Ireland medal and myself and Seamus Darby are great buddies. Typical of the man.

Written by Hogan Stand Magazine

13 / 08/ 07