Championship still the real test, admits Lilywhites star Doyle

Winning the Division 2 league title may have been perceived outside of the camp as being important to Kildare’s continuing development but it was never viewed as such by the players or management.

So says the man who walked up the Hogan Stand steps to be presented with the trophy, Johnny Doyle.

It was the Lilies’ first major success under Kieran McGeeney’s management but championship has always been the barometer for achievement.

“Obviously you want to win any competition you’re in but once you are gone out of it, you just focus on the next competition so you don’t get too hung up about it,” explains Doyle.

“Most teams that don’t win it would say they don’t take the league seriously so that’s part and parcel of it. I don’t see it as a monkey off the back or anything but we’re delighted to win it.”

For so long the go-to man in Kildare’s attack, Doyle’s role has evolved since last year. It began out of necessity, when cruciate injuries ruled out Dermot Earley and Hugh Lynch.

The county’s record scorer was relocated to midfield and has continued in that general area, as a hewer of wood and carrier of water. He is not even taking frees anymore, with Eoghan O’Flaherty and Mikey Conway taking over those responsibilities.

He might prefer to be the focal point of the attack but no-one who knows him is surprised at his selflessness.

“I’m not getting any younger. I’d have my own ideas of where I want to play but you have to fit into the team and what Kieran wants. That responsibility has spread through the team. It doesn’t matter whose leather it leaves as long as it goes between the sticks.”

The Allenwood man turned 34 in January but is coping well, even with the increased demands.

“Maybe you’d be sore for a day or two after. Once I’m out there, I won’t get too hung up on it.”

Meanwhile, the aforementioned Earley continued his fitness drive, lining out at midfield as Kildare defeated Louth 1-15 to 1-9 in the Leinster JFC at St Conleth’s Park last night.

It was the dual All-Star’s first championship start for the county since suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury in the 2010 All-Ireland SFC quarter-final against Meath. A recurrence of the injury ruled him out of the entire season last year.

Earley played the entire game. There was a hint of concern when the Sarsfields man picked up a knock to his right ankle but he shrugged that off and even scored a second-half point.

Scorers for Kildare: S Hanafin 0-4(3fs); C McNally 1-1; G Duffy 0-3; B Lawlor, D Earley, C Bolton 0-2 each; D Flynn 0-1.

Louth: R Holdcroft (1f), C Rafferty (fs) 0-3 each; B Hamilton 1-0; S McCann, N Conlon, W Woods 0-1.

KILDARE: W Clynch; J Lambe, W Burke, C Fagan; E Fitzpatrick, C Feeney, C O’Shea; B Lawlor, D Earley; T McCann, S Hanafin, D Flynn; G Duffy, C Bolton, C McNally. Subs: D Barker for Feeney (21); J Kehoe for Lambe (46)

LOUTH: S Reynolds; S Murphy, D Collier, P Nixon; J Clarke, C Bellew, C Rafferty; S McCann, R Leavy; R Moore, P Carrie, R Holdroft; N Conlon, W Woods, C Mathews. Subs: D Matthews for Moore (24); D McComish for Bellew inj (33); B Hamilton for Carrie (40); M Rogers for Mathews (40).

Referee: N Ward (Westmeath).


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