independent

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Kevin Doyle set to lend his expertise to U-20 footballers

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

On the Line with Alan Aherne

If there was a prize on offer for a group of mentors thinking outside the box, I reckon it would have to go to the Wexford Under-20 football backroom team following an innovative decision on their part.

It mightn't be universally known just yet, but they have enlisted the services of recently-retired soccer international Kevin Doyle in an advisory capacity.

This is a major coup and it should be of significant assistance in ensuring the best-possible squad will be available to take on Dublin, Longford and Westmeath respectively between May 28 and June 16.

After all, any young footballer interested in progressing ought to be hanging on Doyle's every word in the hope of picking up some useful tips to give them the necessary edge.

The presence of a man of his calibre in and around the dressing-room will be invaluable. He has played professional sport in three different countries, and his strong passion for Wexford never left him in all those years spent away from home.

And for anyone scoffing at the news and wondering what exactly a soccer star can bring to the table, let me remind you of one salient fact: back in 2001, Doyle was the star full-forward on the Good Counsel team which lost a Leinster Senior football quarter-final in Carlow to St. Mel's of Longford by 3-17 to 1-19 after extra-time, scoring the consolation goal.

Indeed, if his soccer prowess hadn't taken him to St. Patrick's Athletic, Cork City, Reading, Wolves, Q.P.R., Crystal Palace and Colorado Rapids, I have no doubt that he would have been a mainstay of Adamstown teams over the past 15 years.

Kevin is good friends with Under-20 selector and fellow clubman Eric Bradley, and that's how this link apparently developed.

Indeed, the St. Abban's club is very strongly represented on the whole, as Brendan Kehoe is the coach while another selector, Mayo native Kevin O'Reilly, is also living in the parish.

The only 'outsider' involved is Horeswood's P.J. Banville who has decided to give some of his time back immediately to the county after retiring from a distinguished Senior career at the end of 2017.

There are clear problems regarding both the timing and eligibility for this new Under-20 competition, but we will address those in another column.

For the time being I think we should focus on this positive development, and welcome Kevin back into the G.A.A. fold.

And let's face it, if any young lad wasn't interested in being part of a set-up featuring one of Wexford's greatest-ever sports stars, he probably wouldn't have anything to offer on the field anyway.

I'm sure the county mentors will be busily dividing their time between various sidelines this Friday and Saturday, because the first-ever domestic Under-20 football championship will get under way with the grand total of 17 games down for decision.

Clubs are obliged to play without any county Seniors, but that should be a little easier to accept given that no team will be ejected after the completion of three group games.

With four separate championships and everyone guaranteed at least one additional knockout match regardless of finishing place, it will be interesting to see how it all pans out.

By my reckoning, the grand total of 40 clubs will be represented in total, 29 in an individual capacity and the remainder operating as part of five group team entrants.

Indeed, the only football outfits that I don't see represented on the fixtures list are Bannow-Ballymitty and Craanford.

It's particularly encouraging to note the presence of some clubs that didn't field teams in the last-ever Under-21 championship in 2017.

One stand-out example is the meeting of St. Joseph's and Davidstown-Courtnacuddy that's down for decision at the former's Whiterock Hill venue on Saturday afternoon.

Blackwater, Volunteers, St. Mary's (Maudlintown) and Kilmore are among the others hoping that this new event will give their young players plenty of football over the coming weeks.

Let's hope there will be non-stop action and zero walkovers, although pitch conditions won't be the greatest at the outset.

Wexford People

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