Doyle was named captain for the day and received the loudest cheer of the afternoon when he was introduced as a 62nd-minute sub during the Lilies’ facile win against Westmeath. However, his eight-minute cameo was to prove his final appearance in a Kildare shirt as he announced his retirement in the dressing room after the game.
Doyle, who turned 36 in January, only returned to the panel in recent weeks having sat out the early months of the year after his wife Siobhán gave birth to twin girls before Christmas. A second-half substitute appearance against Derry in the penultimate round of the league was his first game of 2014 but just seven days later, the 2010 All Star decided to call it a day. Doyle made his championship debut for Kildare in 2000 when they won their second Leinster title in three years under Mick O’Dwyer. The Allenwood ace was the sole survivor from the 2000-winning side left in the panel so his departure is a huge blow to manager Jason Ryan ahead of this year’s Leinster campaign.
“I make this decision very reluctantly but do so based on my family commitments” said Doyle in a statement last night.
“It has been a great privilege for me to have worn the Kildare jersey for the past 15 years and a wonderful honour to have soldiered with and against so many great players.
“This commitment has shaped me as a person and Kildare football has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. However, I am confident that now is the right time to close this chapter and move on to an exciting period in my life.
“I would like to acknowledge the support of my family which has been, at all times, unconditional. Quite frankly I could not have functioned without that extraordinary backing and I am so grateful.
“I have played for Kildare under five different managers and I would like to pay tribute to all five for placing their faith in me as a footballer. Thanks also to the various management teams and backroom staff for their support and kindness over the years.
“I would like to wish Jason Ryan, his management team and the current Kildare squad the very best of luck and successes for the championship season 2014 and indeed on into the future.”
Ryan did at least pick up his second win of the league at home to Westmeath yesterday, even if both sides were already relegated. Cathal McNally’s goal on the stroke of half-time left Kildare with a 1-9 to 0-3 advantage at the break and the second half turned into a procession for the home side.
The Lilies added 13 points as they racked up an impressive total but their opponents had given up the ghost long before the final whistle.
“The league campaign has been difficult but it’s great to finish with a win,” said Kildare manager Ryan. “We can’t wait for the championship.”
Without John Doyle to call on, it will be an anxious wait for most Lilies.
Scorers for Kildare: D Mulhall 0-7 (4f), N Kelly 0-5, C McNally 1-1, S Hurley 0-3, P O’Neill 0-2, F Dowling, P Brophy, E Callaghan, F Conway 0-1 each.
Scorers for Westmeath: D Glennon 0-4 (2f), G Egan 0-2 (1f), P Sharry (45), C McCormack, A Giles 0-1 each.
WESTMEATH: S Gallagher; S Gilmore, K Gavin, K Maguire; S Flynn, P Sharry, K Daly; D Duffy, R Connellan; C McCormack, G Egan, K Martin; J Dolan, D Dolan, D Glennon.
Subs: J Gilligan for Gavin (inj. 15), A Giles for D Dolan (inj. 32); J Gonoud for Gilmore (ht), D Harte for Daly (50), D McCormack for Martin (52), R Foley for McCormack (64).
KILDARE: S Connolly; M O’Grady, M Foley, P Kelly; F Conway, G White, K Cribbin; T Moolick, H Lynch; C McNally, P O’Neill, P Cribbin; N Kelly, P Brophy, D Mulhall.
Subs: S Hurley for P Cribbin (inj. ht), D Hyland for P Kelly (bc, 41), F Dowling for Brophy (54), J Doyle for McNally (62), E Callaghan for Lynch (62), E Bolton for Conway (64).
Ref: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).