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"My Wife Voted For Dermot" - The Ultimate Kildare GAA Cult Hero Speaks About His Career

"My Wife Voted For Dermot" - The Ultimate Kildare GAA Cult Hero Speaks About His Career
By Conor Neville Updated

It's been a momentous and hard fought campaign but we now know who has been voted the ultimate Kildare GAA cult hero.

Passers-by would have seen white smoke was seen blowing from the chimneys at the Kildare GAA centre of excellence at Hawkfield this evening.

Habemus winner...

With an impressive 40% of the vote, John Doyle - of Allenwood and Kildare, as Marty might put it at this point - has been voted the Kildare GAA cult hero.

He beat the exceptionally long-serving Anthony Rainbow into 2nd place, with the elegant Dermot Earley in the bronze medal position.

Balls.ie spoke to great Johnny Doyle about his win this evening.

First off, we congratulated John and asked him how he pulled this off. Did he vote for himself?

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JD: Listen, I got my mother, my father, friends to vote. But my wife told me she voted for Dermot. I have to get onto her about that. But Dermot would vote for me anyway so that's fair enough! We look after each other.

A lot of younger people maybe wouldn't remember the Glen Ryans or Anthony Rainbow as much or even Niall Buckley. His last game was 2001. The internet would have been around but on a slow basis. I suppose I'm the last lad playing so maybe the younger crowd would remember me a little bit more. I certainly, in that list, would be voting for myself 5th. To be honest.

But fair play to me Ma and me Da.

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Did he appoint his own campaign manager? Did he set up a campaign headquarters in Allenwood, a base camp from which he orchestrated this stunning victory?

JD: No I didn't, which is surprising. Someone might come out of the woodwork to say that they rigged it. I remember one time, I've a very good friend and he's big into computers. It was about 2002 or 2003 and the internet was only getting off the ground.

There was an online vote for Man of the Match in some match. I don't know what he did or what buttons he pressed but I won the award. So, maybe he was back on the scene!

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One of the things that John's admirers always hark back to his performances during Kildare's lean years between the Mick O'Dwyer and Kieran McGeeney eras. 

JD: In fairness Padraig Nolan took over after Micko. We got to a Leinster Final in 2002 and we got back to one in 2003. And then there was a freefall for a number of years. We used to do reasonably well in the League and we got to a League semi-final in Division 1 in 2007 under Johnny Crofton.

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But championship just seemed to be a flop year in year out. And even the qualifiers, we might get one win here and then we were gone. We didn't seem to embrace the qualifiers.

But I was young enough, I didn't read too much into statistics. I just went out to play and tried to be the best I could be. And I was taking the frees for Kildare and a lot of the times, you might have kicked six or seven frees in a game and people would say "well, he must have played well."

The final minute of the Down-Kildare All-Ireland semi-final is burned into supporters' memories. As Daragh O'Conchuir reminded us last week, with Kildare in need of a goal, Doyle told the goalkeeper to lump the kickout on top of him - even though there were two Down giants standing beside him.  

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JD: My own clubmate Shane McCormack was in the goals at the time. Marty Clarke got a free. It was one that I thought he'd put over and he kicked it wide. Obviously, Dermot wasn't playing. And I had drifted out towards the middle. And without thinking too much, I said to Shane "put it out on top of me." So at least we'd try and contest it.

I ended up winning it. And I remember I won the ball, came down, no one touched me and I got a free. I don't know whether Pat McEnaney was rewarding me for the catch. It was no more a free than the man on the moon.

And I suppose that led to a free inside and Rob Kelly just rattled the crossbar. That's how close it was. It just wasn't to be.

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It was a good year in one way, but looking back, it was a year of most regrets. We were within a hair's breath of reaching an All-Ireland final. And we didn't play particularly well in that semi-final. That was the most disappointing.

 

Best ever game? Any that stick in the mind? Did it come in 2010? Or back in the bleak years?  

JD: The best game I feel I probably played... And it's funny there's so much talk about preparation before games, and bans on alcohol and all this...

But I got married in 2006 on Thursday 16 March. And, of course, the next day was Paddy's Day and we'd had a big celebration that spilled into Paddy's Day and the Cheltenham Gold Cup was on and all this. And then I'd a few drinks on the Saturday.

And John Crofton rang me on Saturday and said "look I know you've had a few busy days, but how would you be fixed for tomorrow?"

It was against Meath up in Navan.

I said "lookit, I'm not going to tell you a lie. I'd a good few drinks - not too many on the day of the wedding - but the day after I'd a good few drinks. And then I had a couple on Saturday early on. We're home now."

I said "lookit, I'll go. Whatever you want me to do..."

I ended up kicking seven points from play. I don't think I ever kicked seven points from play before. And got the Man of the Match on TG4.

We were flying out on the Monday to Florida on the honeymoon. I was in holiday mode and if I didn't play well, I had a bit of an excuse.

I wasn't even expecting to start. But Johnny (Crofton) said, "lookit, we'll start you and see how you get on."

We ended up winning and no matter where I ran the ball fell in my hand. An no matter where I kicked it, it went over the bar.

It was a strange experience because if a young lad had done the kind of drinking I had done over the previous few days, you'd be saying he has to go off the panel - "we can't accept these standards!"

And here I was having a great time and finished up getting two league points on the board against Meath.

All of a sudden, people were saying "fair play to him, he put off his honeymoon for the match." Well, that really wasn't the way it happened.

When we were booking it, I said, "we've a League match. Maybe if we can book for the Monday, I might be able to get the match in."

But if we couldn't, we were going to go anyway.

All of sudden, you were seen as a great lad. People were saying, "fair play to him! He wouldn't go without playing the match."

But if the travel agent said "look, we've a flight on the Sunday", I was gone.

So, the story went around that I was putting the whole honeymoon off for the match and I didn't contradict anyone.

Ger McNally, the sports editor of the Kildare Nationalist, remarked last week that Doyle played 67 straight championship games and never missed one from his debut to his final match.

JD: I've been very lucky with injuries. Never broke a bone or anything. Two years ago, I picked up a small bit of cartilage in my knee and got an operation. And dead legs and strained muscles here and there but very lucky with injuries.

I made my championship debut in 2000 and played til the Tyrone game in 2013 and played every game in between. I played my first championship game in Allenwood in '96 and never missed a championship game for Allenwood either.

I don't know what's in the genes but very lucky with injuries which makes it easier.

How does he feel about winning this accolade of ultimate Kildare GAA cult hero?

JD: Do I need my passport for the prize? If I nearly got a night out in Dublin that'd suit me... Don't be going overboard with 5-star hotels or anything.

Read more: "Virtual Reality Clones Style!" - The Missteps In RTE's First Year Of Screening Provincial GAA Matches

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