Friday 24 November 2017

Book Review: The boy wonder of hurling did his talking on the field

Alan Aherne

The Boy Wonder of Hurling
The Boy Wonder of Hurling

We are smack bang in the middle of a golden time for all ardent followers of hurling.

Many may associate early September with the return to school and the realisation that Christmas isn't as far away as we might think.

However, for lovers of the ancient game it can only mean one thing as the inter-county season reaches its climax. In the space of six days the Senior, Minor and Under-21 finals take place, and the fact that we have a direct involvement in the latter decider for the second year running makes it that bit extra special.

In the circumstances, it's only right and fitting that this week's review is of 'The Boy Wonder Of Hurling - The Story Of Jimmy Doyle'.

When hurling followers think of star forwards of the past from the various leading counties, several names spring instantly to mind, among them some of the all-time greats of the game.

Thoughts turn to Christy Ring of Cork, Mick Mackey of Limerick, our own Nickey Rackard, Eddie Keher of Kilkenny, and the subject of this book who enjoyed a glittering career with Tipperary which is recalled in considerable detail.

Alas, there is an air of poignancy surrounding the book and its launch, as Jimmy Doyle passed away suddenly on June 22.

He was due to travel to Dublin the following day to view a final draft with the publishers and editor, but fate stepped in and dealt a cruel blow,

A decision was taken not to alter any of the text, apart from adding in an explanatory final chapter, and this adds an air of sadness to the many tributes paid to Jimmy by opponents and team-mates alike.

Clearly he was a very special talent, small in stature but one of the sweetest left-sided strikers of a ball that the game has ever known.

And the book undoubtedly does him justice. The writer, Diarmuid O'Flynn, who transcribed Jimmy's own words, stays in the background and this is the way it should be as there is no attempt made to embellish or over-complicate the thoughts of the subject.

Jimmy earned the 'boy wonder' nickname as a result of playing in four consecutive All-Ireland Minor finals in the 1950s, something that will never happen again. He won the last three and went on to add six Seniors, nine Munsters, seven National Leagues and seven Oireachtas titles, as well as being top championship scorer in Ireland on seven occasions.

Add in eight Railway Cup medals with Munster, a glittering club career with Thurles Sarsfields which yielded eleven county Senior medals, along with selection on the team of the century and the team of the millenium; it's clear that Jimmy was in a league of his own and the book recalls the many battles of his career, including his four All-Ireland finals against Wexford in the 1960s which were shared equally.

The details of Jimmy's personal life are equally as fascinating as his hurling recollections. He was born in Bohernanave, just a stone's throw from Semple Stadium, and he practically lived in that field for every waking hour from a very young age.

When his father left some money on the table for the Doyle children at the end of every week, invariably all of Jimmy's siblings would head down town to the cinema. His routine was different though as he would buy some toffees and head off to play hurling on his own with only his dog for company to retrieve the ball.

It was a much more innocent time, but it shaped the character of a shy, talented man who was revered by fans of hurling throughout a long career. I enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it.


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