Wednesday, May 25, 2022

IN this week’s Kildare Nationalist, in your shops now or on line at www.kildare-nationalist.ie, we carried a double page feature of our conversation with Kildare Senior Team Selector/Coach in which he talked about his time with Kildare, facing Dublin in a Leinster Final, his role with the Kildare seniors and also the great work being done at all levels within Kildare.

We reprise Part 1 of our conversation with Johnny below.

By Pat Costello

He played for Kildare from 1999 to 2014 scoring 8 – 260 in total and now, along with his great friends and long time county soldiers Allenwood’s Johnny Doyle is Coach/Selector in the Glenn Ryan Management Team which also includes Anthony Rainbow and Dermot Early. 

Johnny Doyle in action for Kildare Photo: INPHO

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Johnny played and won a Leinster Final against Dublin in 2000, six months after he joined the Kildare senior squad  and as he works on the preparation of the Kildare team to face Dublin in Saturday’s Leinster Final we asked him what were his memories of the Leinster Final 22 years ago.                                                                                                                                                        Johnny Doyle: I came into the panel out of nowhere really in 1999 after Allenwood had been beaten in the Co Final so there was very little in the underage career, straight into the seniors. It was a bit of a whirlwind really. You were coming in on the back of the 98 team where I would have been a supporter at every game with the white boiler suit going to the Hill on All Ireland Final Day. You were coming into a really strong dressing room and you were nearly sitting in a corner afraid to look left or right and then bang within the space of six or seven months you’re playing a Leinster Final against Dublin in Croke Park.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It was a mad time really but it was a great time. I enjoyed it. The fact that it did come out of nowhere as far as I was concerned this could be over at any stage. I was surrounded by some really strong people who helped me along the way.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     I was thrown the No 11 jersey in a Leinster Final which was huge on a personal level as well as for the family and the club. When we did win it you felt these were going to be every couple of years so it’s terrible to say that here we are 22 years later and we’re still waiting to get another one.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I’d throw the bag in the corner on a Tuesday evening and the mother would have it washed and ready for the next day out.

PC: You played under Glenn as captain and alongside Anthony and Dermot. Did you ever envisage that the four of you would end up on the Management Team for Kildare?                                                                                                                                                                                                      JD: All my interest was in playing whether it was club or county and I was lucky to have a good career in both. Obviously when you go on to play at a high level you’d be asked to do coaching sessions here and there so it evolved into coaching and into getting involved in teams . I was automatically was drawn to coaching but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be involved with these guys at senior level.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Obviously I went to school with Dermot and would have been very close to him all the way through but you never know what’s around the corner and I’m very honoured and very lucky to be involved with the Management Group, the group of players that we have and the support you get from the Co Board. You’re just a small little cog in the machine and you’re trying to bring anything that you can to make Kildare better and that’s your role.

PC:  You are all different characters, strong characters but the dynamic is working.                                                                                                        JD: Glenn was the big leader of the team and all four of us would have captained Kildare at some stage so someone saw a natural leadership in all four of us. Everyone brings something different to it and there’s a good dynamic there. There’s a good debate. Someone in the club told me that they were worried that we were all very close and we are but we have lots of debates, and some heated debates and arguments but everything we’re doing is for the betterment of the  team. We are strong characters, maybe even opinionated characters within the group, but once a decision is made we back each other up.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            PC: What did it feel like when you were finally announced as the Management Team?                                                                                                      JD: It happened very quickly. When Glenn had gone before we’d row in behind him and we were unsuccessful and (laughing) there were lots of times you were thinking Thank God he didn’t get it because you were busy and with a very young family and you’d wonder where in the name of God you’d get the time and you were nearly glad maybe when he didn’t get it.                                                                                            Glenn got an interview late on and he rang to see if I would be interested in getting involved and I told him all the reasons I couldn’t get involved and I wasn’t ready to hang up the boots with Allenwood, even though I probably should have. Then I had a chat with Siobhan and she encouraged me, saying it was a great opportunity.                                                                                                                                                              It was a bit surreal at first but we sat down and we went through the process of what we wanted to do, lots of meetings and a lot of zoom calls and then we went out to look at players.

PC: How different is it from being a player?                                                                                                                                                                                  JD: It’s very time consuming. Training maybe four or five nights a week depending on the time of year and then there’s all the other stuff that goes on like selecting teams and meeting players, video analysis, meeting nutritionists. Then there’s the whole GPS side of things, checking injuries. We often meet at 11 pm at night over Zoom because you’re trying to fit every thing in. It is enjoyable. You see the effort of the players, they put in a massive, massive effort but I never doubted that anyhow whether it was under Jack O’Connor, Cian O’Neill and all they want is to be successful and be the best version of themselves. You get to know players, see what makes them tick, get to know them on a personal level and you’re watching them grow. You try to pick them up when they fall. We have 35 on the panel so there’s going to be a lot of disappointments in that. It’s about trying to keep those players motivated. The players are very honest with you and they expect you to be honest with them.

PC: During Micko’s time maybe 4,000 or 5,000 would watch training. Do the players miss that?                                                                                  JD I’m not sure. A lot of players would not be used to that so it’s not something they miss because they never had it. At certain times it’s good and at certain times it’s bad and it’s nice to keep things low key. But then you have to enjoy that aspect of it as well. I stood beside Ben McCormack after the Dublin League match with the crowds coming on to the field and he had never witnessed that. For me I had seen it loads of times. It’s good that Ben did witness it. Kids that ran out there could witness that themselves in 10 years time. Please God as we go on and maybe get success you bring people with you and when things are not going well  people fall away. Hopefully the crowds will continue as they have done all through the League and into the championship.

PC You are now facing in to a Leinster Final. Is that different now to when you were a player?                                                                                   JD: From a playing point of view you are so focused on your own game. For me it was hours with a bag of balls kicking and making sure my frees were going the way I wanted. Working on your skills and getting yourself into a place physically and mentally that you needed to be in. That changed a bit when I was captain and you were trying to see how everyone else was going.                                                                                  Now it’s watching everything. You’re focused on the team. You’re looking for the small little thing maybe that might bring something extra. It’s very enjoyable. We’re in our first Leinster Final but we are still getting to know players. We are definitely in a good position. We have to be at our very best but that’s sport and you have to believe. I have no doubt that this Kildare team is good enough. They have to face the tough battle that it’s going to be but that’s their job and hopefully they will be the best version of themselves that they can be.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       My role is to help them in any way I can but I don’t feel any pressure but will I be nervous and will the butterflies be jumping around in the stomach? Absolutely! Will I say how the hell am I going to get through this? I said that in Suncroft last week a Division 3 game. That’s always there but that’s what keeps you right. I’m not here to put a glittering CV together I’m here to try and make sure Kildare can be the best they can be.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      PC: After the two semi finals Kildare will be underdogs, not a position Kildare will be uncomfortable with?                                                              JD: Regardless of what happened in the semi finals Kildare were always going to be underdogs. The League didn’t go the way we’re used to seeing Dublin but I would be under no illusion. Dublin haven’t gone away and they’re a fantastic team. Yes, they’ve lost players, once in a generation type of players, but once they’re gone it’s next man in and the players that they have brought in are really good players.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Being underdogs is just someone’s opinion but our opinion and our preparation and mindset has to be different to the masses. If we go out and give the best version of ourselves we’ll see where it will take us.

Part 2 of the conversation with Johnny Doyle will appear on all Kildare Nationalist platforms on Thursday.

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