Saturday 16 December 2017

Doyle delivered on his early promise

Weird Wide World of Sport

Dave Devereux

Kevin Doyle battles for possession with Chelsea’s David Luiz in a Premier League match in 2012, during his successful spell at Wolverhampton Wanderers
Kevin Doyle battles for possession with Chelsea’s David Luiz in a Premier League match in 2012, during his successful spell at Wolverhampton Wanderers

We need to talk about Kevin.

There's no prizes for guessing the Kevin I'm referring to (the photograph gives it away) and he's been trending more than Donald Trump in recent days, but 'Doyler' the legend deserves to be spoken about in reverential terms in these parts.

Since he broke the news of his enforced retirement last week, the popular Wexford man has had heartfelt and genuine plaudits ringing in his ears from all corners.

From managers who watched him grow into a consummate professional, players who had the honour of lining out beside him, to you and me, the ordinary fan on the street, who saw him flourish to make the most of his considerable talent, everybody wanted to wish him well.

When pulling on their first pair of boots and knee-high socks it's every schoolboy's dream to play for their country, and Doyle lived that dream and did it with immense pride and distinction.

He may have risen through the ranks to the upper echelons of the beautiful game but metaphorically speaking he never got too big for those untarnished, child-sized boots, with his down-to-earth attitude endearing him to fans of every club he played for, as well as, of course, the fervent followers of the Boys in Green.

He may have stepped out of the spotlight to a degree when he made the move to the other side of the Atlantic to join Colorado Rapids, but anybody who ever saw him play knew that, when given the opportunity, he would continue to give his all every time he pulled on a jersey for club or country.

With him plying his trade across the pond for the past couple of seasons, away from the fascination of the Premier League, people could easily forget just how good he was at his peak.

Like everything in life, you'll always find the odd nay-sayer or two, but you don't win two Senior Player of the Year awards and take a place high on the all-time Irish goal-scoring charts by being average.

He may not have had the out of this world skills of Messi, Ronaldo or Suarez, but what he lacked in raw talent he more than made up for in hard work and application.

There's no player, even the superstars mentioned, that will always be at their best, but one thing that can be a constant is that they try their damnedest.

That's what you always got with Doyle. When he walked over the white line, you knew he'd give it everything and no stone would be left unturned for the cause.

He has always been approachable and unassuming to the core and is a wonderful role model for any small kid with big dreams of making it in the professional game, and surely he has plenty to offer in a coaching capacity if he chooses to stay in the sport which gave him so much.

The Wexford man showed you don't have to take the well-worn and daunting route across the Irish Sea as a youngster to carve out a career for yourself, a path that can often lead to disappointment and tears.

Instead he made a name for himself on these shores with his scintillating performances at Cork City earning him a richly-deserved move to Reading, and he's one of the pioneers that paved the way for many more like him to dip their toes into League of Ireland soccer as a viable means to a fruitful end.

Once he made it to England's top flight it was always clear that Kevin Doyle was never going to metamorphosize into what many would consider a typical Premier League star.

He may have shown a small penchant for the bling that sometimes engulfs the world of top class footballers that are doing well for themselves, like an eye-catching watch, or a shiny sports car, but there was never any brashness or sense of superiority about him and it would take a bitter old so and so to begrudge him the trappings of his success. Everything he got he earned, and he worked bloody well hard for it.

He might have opted for highlights in his well-groomed hair on occasion, something which could be expected of a football star, but the highlights reel of his all-energy performances and goals of all varieties will leave a more lasting impression.

He signed off his farewell statement in typical fashion, saying 'I'm privileged and proud to have fulfilled my childhood dream of playing for my country. Everything else was a bonus. See you in Wexford'.

Doyle refused to lose touch with his Wexford roots and despite making it in the surreal world of Premier League football, family and friends back home never, ever took a back seat.

He has always been proud of where he came from and Wexford in turn, and indeed the country, is proud of him.

Kevin always did his talking on the pitch. The best of luck with the next chapter.

Wexford People

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