By Charlie Keegan
THERE has been a positive reaction and, no doubt, more than a little hand-wringing around the county to my recent naming of a team of talented Carlow footballers who never won a county senior football championship medal.
The team selection was confined to the last 50 years – from 1970 onwards, excluding many fine players still playing club football who still have a chance to win the top prize in the local game.
Jimmy Nolan from Knockindrane, Garryhill called to put forward the name of the late ‘Black’ Jimmy Doyle, for inclusion on the team at midfield.
Jimmy Doyle was a dual player of renown for Naomh Eoin in the 1970sJimmy Doyle was a dual player for Naomh Eoin, Myshall in the 1970s. As strong as an ox he was a force of nature, having an engine that never stalled over the course of a game. Jimmy was a fearless leader on the field.
Jimmy Nolan, a farmer, remembers ‘Black’ Jimmy playing a stormer in midfield for the Myshall side in the early 1980s against Kildavin. The Kildavin pairing was the county senior combination of Joe Kirwan and the late Charlie Byrne.
In 1973 Naomh Eoin won their lone Carlow senior football league title with final victory over Éire Óg, a side which then, as now, provide the litmus test for the merits of any team in the county. Jimmy Nolan says ‘Black’ Jimmy played a star role at midfield in his side’s success that day.
“‘Black’ Jimmy Doyle would hold his own with the best of midfielders,” he said.
Jimmy Nolan recalled an occasion in 1970 after Naomh Eoin had won their first Bolger Cup (Carlow senior hurling league). Jimmy Doyle was captain of the team and the presentation of the medals took place some time later in Rathcrogue House.
The late Andy Jordan was Naomh Eoin club chairman at the time and the medals were being presented by the legendary commentator Micheál O Muircheartaigh.
The Kerry man was introduced to Jimmy Doyle and, after putting his hand on Jimmy’s shoulder, it prompted him to comment: “He should have been called ‘Block Jimmy Doyle’” due to his awesome build.
Jimmy Nolan also recalls Jimmy Doyle having great midfield battles with Rathvilly’s Matt Hanley. He recalled a report in The Nationalist from one game which stated that both players “are capable of catching swallows”.
Jimmy says of ‘Black’ Jimmy: “He hit hard, fair and often but, most of all, he was a true sportsman.
He added: “Jimmy Doyle will be long remembered in Naomh Eoin for his high fielding, his long solo runs and, most of all, for his sportsmanship.
“May the bright light of heaven shine down on Jimmy’s brow.”
In terms of the players named as just outside the selected 15, Jimmy said that Willie Eustace of Naomh Eoin was another man who might have been named among the subs, as an excellent wing half back.
Jimmy Nolan said he never made it himself as a footballer or hurler. While attending the De La Salle Brothers at primary level in Bagenalstown, a Brother Stanislaus fired his interest in football and hurling, feeling Jimmy had the ability to be a really fine player. But, Jimmy says, he did not have the commitment. “I went farming and that was it,” he remarked.
Jimmy has been a life-long follower of football and hurling. He never misses Carlow outings in the Leinster senior football championship and has been to practically every GAA county grounds in the country, except for some northern venues – although he has followed red, yellow and green of his native county in championship games in Casement Park, Belfast and Breffni Park, Cavan.
He was a selector with Naomh Eoin when they won the Carlow SHC titles of 2003 and 2005, on both occasions defeating Mount Leinster Rangers in the final.
A fair few additional names have also surfaced of players worthy of consideration and without a SFC medal in their back pocket.
Tinryland has to go back to 1981 for the last of their 15 Carlow SFC successes, when they scored a 1-8 to 0-5 win over Naomh Eoin. It has been brought to my notice that there are a clutch of Tinryland players who would be in contention for a place on the team.
Joe Broderick was a very safe, capable and brave goalie for the club and county for a long number of years and would be a strong candidate for the number one jersey. Then there was Martin Doyle at centre back and wing half forward John Murphy, who were both fine clubmen for the blue and white hoops.
In relation to the team I named in The Nationalist of 28 April, there was a call from a south county Gael who did not wish to be identified. He said it was an excellent team and he would not quibble with any of the players selected.
He just wished to point out that Eamon Kehoe, the Clonegal native, played centre field for Carlow in the National Football League final of 1953/’54 against Mayo in Croke Park and not at centre back as I had stated. I’m happy to clarify that positional error.
For the record, the team I selected two weeks ago was as follows: Leo Hughes (Ballinabranna); Tom Donohoe (Kilbride), George Darcy (St Andrew’s), Séan Treacy (Palatine); Johnny Byrne (Ballinabranna), Cyril Hughes (St Andrew’s), Pat Foley (Old Leighlin); Paddy Browne (Grange), Thomas Walsh (Fenagh); JJ Canavan (Palatine), Tom Kehoe (Clonmore), Pat McNally (Ballinabranna); Willie Cullen (Palatine), Willie Doyle (O’Hanrahan’s), Joe Sheeran (Ballinabranna). Subs: Eamon Kehoe (Clonegal), Enda Smyth (Tinryland), Joe Byrne (Palatine), Tom Boland (Clonmore), Michael Jackman (Tullow), Ned Doyle (Grange), Jim Kinsella (Ballinabranna), Ben McNally (Ballinabranna)