When the championship comes around John
Doyle’s appetite for football is as strong as ever
I’d be watching the weather. It’s to be warm this week so your biggest thing is to get enough fluids on board – two or three litres of water. I’d be busy going to the toilet then and when you’re out and about in the car I’d have to jump in over a hedge or a farmer’s gate every now and again.
I’d be an early riser, 6.45am, 7am I’d be up out of the bed. Maybe people say that’s not that early! I’d be a Wheetabix man in the morning and milk – full fat milk. Anything full fat I’m allowed. Some fruit as well and I’d have the bottle of water in the car with me the whole time. I’d be on the road most days. I try and get a snack about 10.30am or 11am – might be just a sandwich or it could be a scone. By 1pm, I’d get the dinner. I’d have a bit of lean meat, white meat, veg and potatoes. I wouldn’t be throwing on much gravy or anything like that. For me, when you’re not watching your weight, it’s a great thing really.
If you’re working hard you have to mind what you put into the body but it’s not something I get too hung up about. I eat plenty and I try to get a balanced diet but I like to sit up and watch a video with a bit of popcorn, a can of coke and a few Minstrels the same as everyone else.
REST AND RECOVERY
On a Monday night, especially if we’ve had a game at the weekend, we’ll have a pool session. Anyone around Newbridge and south Kildare, the Laurence’s lads and that would come to The Gables in Newbridge. You just go in and do a bit of stretching. I’d normally meet up with somebody that would be going around the same time. There’s a bit of craic and a bit of banter as well. Even just to get to know lads, you’d be chatting about what you were doing in work during the day. I’d have no problem doing it with a club guy so you’re trying to build that sort of atmosphere. I might ring one of the newer lads and go with him just to get to know him. It might not necessarily be football-related but just find out a bit about him and it makes him feel that he’s a part of the team.
At night, I’d be getting to bed that bit earlier. I’d be in bed by half 10 most nights just to get the rest coming up to the match. I’ve no problem sleeping, that’s one thing that was never a problem.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
On a Monday evening, I would just go out with a bag of balls to practice frees. I start in close to goals to get the legs warmed up. I’d have no real scientific way of doing it. I find the more I kick, the more confident I get. It’s just to get the feel of striking it well, that’s the thing for me. I’d probably go straight from work to the field. Depending on where I am, I’d either go to Hawkfield or Newbridge or Allenwood.
On Tuesday and Thursday if we have a pitch session, I try and get home first and get a small bite to eat. I’m okay because I live only ten minutes from Hawkfield. I try to get to training early. I normally leave home at 6.15pm and I’d be home from Hawkfield normally around 10pm. Training officially starts at 7.30pm but I’d be on the field for 6.40pm just doing a bit of stretching and warming-up. Shane Connolly would normally be there early because he’d be on the road and he wouldn’t have time to go home. Most lads would be on the field for 7pm doing a bit themselves. Defenders would be chatting among themselves and there’d be plenty of banter going on before training as well.
When the league starts and as you get closer to the championship, sure you’d love to stay out there all night. You’d have to actually check yourself right after training because there’d be lads hanging around kicking balls, you’d have to say: ‘hold on, I better leave a bit in the tank.’ That’s what you love. This time of the year, appetite is never a problem. And you realise too that it’s not going to last forever so you embrace it.
WEIGHTS ON WEDNESDAYS
Weights work would mostly be on a Wednesday evening at a set time. I go to the gym straight from work and you’re home and you have the evening to yourself then. Julie (Davis – strength and conditioning coach) would be there from 4pm – we’ve a good few students so they’d be in early. Julie supervises to make sure you’re doing them right or if a lad is struggling with a knock, she’d amend their programme and if there’s lads doing a bit of rehab, she’d talk them through that.
My programme would be tailored to what I need. You’d have a programme that would last a few weeks. You keep a little notebook of the session.
One time I used to be too light but as you get older it stand to you if you don’t carry weight. I saw a clip there of the Leinster final in 2000 and I think I was about two stone lighter. I was swimming in the jersey. I suppose you get harder rather than stronger, you’d be able to ship tackles. Sometimes I think you shouldn’t fight the body – you are what you are.
DADDY DAY CARE
Monday and Wednesday night you’d spend a bit of time with the baby – she’d be in bed before you’d get home on Tuesday and Thursday so you’d spend a bit of time with her before you’d go out. This is my second year playing football as a father.
I don’t take defeat well. It normally takes me a couple of days to get it out of the system. I remember last year coming home after Cork hammered us and I was gutted but then I went home and Sarah was rolling around on the floor and didn’t give a squart. You start playing with her and it wasn’t any less disappointing but your focus changes back to something different. In that regard it’s changed. You have to worry about her. She wants to be fed whether Kildare win or not.
Thursday night’s training is a repeat of Tuesday. Short, sharp stuff – a couple of intense drills and you’re away then. The odd time Kieran (McGeeney) would bring you in and he’d say you should be working harder in a particular area. It’s little things – he’d give you a video to have a look at. My role has changed. When I was out the field, I tended to work a lot harder and it’s in your psyche when you don’t have the ball to work harder. When you go inside to the full-forward line, I would have looked at games and said, ‘Jesus I’m not working hard enough when I don’t have the ball.’ You feel inside your job is different but really it’s not. When you don’t have the ball you should be foraging back. This year I’m working as hard inside as if say I was a half-forward. You’re always trying to twig your game and always looking to improve it.
FOOTBALL ON THE BRAIN
You just want to keep the head down and concentrate on the game and focus on what you want to bring to the game but it’s always going through your head. I’d be going along in the car and thinking about what might happen and who I might be marking and what I’d like to do. I try to keep positive thoughts in my head. I try to finish work an hour earlier, get home, get the dinner, get the feet up and relax.
The day before is getting plenty of rest, keep off the legs as much as possible. You can never gauge one off the other- I’m glad I did that because it led to me doing that. You just make sure you do the right things, you get a feel for what works for you. You’re always checking yourself and what other lads are doing to see if you could twig this or twig that.
You still have the jitters and the butterflies would be starting in the stomach the day before. It’s the exact same as when I first started playing with Kildare, it doesn’t change. I’d often sit in the dressing room and I’d have the butterflies and I’d think, ‘do I need this?’ But once you get out on the field they’re gone. That’s every year. If I was going to play a club game with Allenwood, I’d still have the butterflies and the jitters. I think it keeps you focused
CALM BEFORE THE STORM
I’d get to bed reasonably early the night before. I’d watch telly, nothing in particular, just whatever is on. In the past, on the morning of a game – my wife Siobhan would pick up her mam and they’d go to the game and there’d be a certain time where I’d be sitting at home on my own whereas now there’s stuff to be done with Sarah. I’m just a little bit busier and that’s a good thing. I’m not sitting there just watching the clock.
For a game in Croke Park, we’d meet in Hawkfield four hours beforehand and get a meal – pasta or chicken or salmon. Some lads would only eat a small bit and some lads would eat enough to do them until they go home and see Mammy again.
The butterflies really kick in when you’re in Hawkfield and you’re on the bus and you see the cars going up the M7 with the Kildare flags. Especially when you get older you realise you’re in a privileged position and a lucky position. Sometimes you take it for granted but then you think there are so many people that would love to be sitting in my seat and you’d appreciate that fact. It could be your first and last campaign. Who knows? You have to play for the now.
THE LAST LEG
I normally sit beside Daryl Flynn. I don’t know why. We’re up the front. You could be chatting about anything. Flynner would be good for a laugh. He’s in to anything that he can try and make a few bob out of. He’d be talking about horses and sure I wouldn’t have a clue. He’s good, he lightens the mood.
There would be a little bit of chat on the bus but you’d know you’re going to an important match. I’ve no rituals when I get to the pitch. I just get in and get the gear on.
Kieran would be the main voice. As forwards we’ll pull things in and talk about things we want to do – likewise defence. And that’s basically it. The talking is nearly done at that stage. Kieran has the last word. It’s very much like a club dressing room, there are no big Braveheart speeches.
BACK TO REALITY
We do a pool session the day after a championship game. I normally go for a cycle. I just potter off on my own. I’d be hoping that you’d be thinking about how well things went. I wouldn’t even go a mile, just to loosen out the legs. Then it’s back home to change a nappy.
*In conversation with Brendan Coffey