Jimmy came onto the Tipperary minor team as a 14-year-old goalkeeper and suffered defeat in his first final appearance, losing to Dublin, but after winning medals in 1955 and 1956, he captained the team in 1957, when he was also a member of the county’s senior squad that captured national league honours, beating Kilkenny, scoring five points off Paddy Buggy.
With the Tipperary minors in 1957, he produced a display in a 10-minute appearance still fondly remembered in Tipperary. Tipperary were up against Cork in the Munster semi-final with just four points between the sides and Cork on top.
Enter Jimmy Doyle.
With his first touch he swept the ball over the bar. Next he placed Larry Kiely for a goal and then he added two more points himself for a 6-6 to 4-4 win.
Jimmy’s first senior All-Ireland medal came in 1958 when Tipperary beat Galway but in the All-Ireland semi-final that year against Kilkenny he gave a masterclass, scoring 1-8 of Tipperary’s 1-13, his score matching that of the entire Kilkenny team.
The goal came from a 21-yard free just before the interval.
Martin Coogan was one of the great Kilkenny half-backs and a player Jimmy found difficult to shake off.
In the lead up to the 1964 All-Ireland final, Jimmy was on a visit to Castlecomer, and was invited to train with the club team. The trainer put him on Martin in a challenge game but both were playing out of position, Martin on the right of the defence and Jimmy on the left of the attack. Jimmy noticed that Martin was not as comfortable on the right wing.
When the teams lined out for the All-Ireland final a week later, Jimmy was a right half-forward and Martin left half-back. Immediately after the throw in Jimmy, in a pre-arranged plan, switched wings with Liam Devaney, and Martin followed him, taking him out of his comfort zone.
Jimmy had a field day as Tipperary went on to win in style.
Captaining his county to win a senior All-Ireland was a childhood dream of Jimmy’s. He realised it in 1962 when he led the county to victory over Wexford but a broken collar-bone forced him to retire.
He was unable to receive the MacCarthy Cup, Tony Wall, his great friend and clubmate doing the honours but in 1965 Jimmy finally achieved his life-time ambition when he captained the Tipp team that beat Wexford.
Jimmy regarded that Tipperary team as the best of his time. It won all before it, League, Oireachtas and All-Ireland championship, and he declared how proud he was to captain Tipp to their 21st All-Ireland title.
Jimmy’s loyalty to his club Thurles Sarsfields is the stuff of legend in Tipperary. He was a key figure in their unequalled run of success winning 10 county finals in 11 years — 1955-1959 and 1961 to 1965 — in a team bristling with inter-county hurlers, then rated as the uncrowned club champions of Ireland.
He also had the distinction of winning county senior, junior and minor medals with Sarsfields in the one year in both ‘55 and ‘56.
However, Jimmy always regarded his last county championship medal in 1974 as one of his most precious. Sarsfields had not won a county title for nine years, and a new team was emerging. He was the captain and father-figure of the group and his display in the final against Silvermines was immense.