Kevin Doyle: Remembering a Short-Lived Legend
Twelve years on and over 7000 kilometres away from Cork City’s Turners Cross ground, former Rebel Army striker Kevin Doyle announced his retirement from football.
“Today I’m sad to announce that after listening to medical advice I will no further part in this season and will be retiring,” Doyle said in a statement on Twitter on September 28th, 2017.
“This year it has been clear to me that heading the ball was becoming problematic and causing me to have repeated headaches. Two concussions this season and numerous others over the years have made this more concerning.
“After consulting with experts in the field it has been decided that to avoid the possibility of these symptoms become more serious and permanent, I will be hanging up my boots for good.”
His announcement ended with a special mention to Patrick Dolan who he stated had “a lot more confidence” in his ability than Doyle did himself.
In March 2003, Dolan was hired as the Cork City manager and in one of his first actions, bought Doyle from St. Patrick’s Athletic, reuniting the two after the former had left St. Pats in February. They spent two seasons together, with Doyle outlasting his manager by six months or so, and in that time Dolan carefully managed Doyle’s progress, playing him out of position on the wing, easing some of the pressure to score from the then 19-year old striker.
It helped that Cork already had a goalscoring strike partnership in local lad George O’Callaghan, who just a year previously had returned from seven years in the ranks of Port Vale, and Cobh-born John O’Flynn, who had similarly joined in 2002 after a youth career in England. Between the three of them, Cork’s main goal threat had an average age of just 20 years and 7 months.
Dolan’s handling of Doyle paid dividends, and when he was moved back into his natural position of centre forward with O’Callaghan dropping into the midfield, he began finding the net at an impressive rate. From there, his ascendancy was fast, becoming an international three years later, while his fellow aforementioned strikers would go on to finish their careers without an international cap between them. Before he made the full international team however, he cut his teeth with the U21s and at the U20 FIFA World Cup in 2003.
In his two-and-a-half-years at Cork, Doyle scored 25 goals in 76 appearances – a rate of roughly one in three; a respectable return for a striker between the ages of 19 and 22, and who spent the first segment of those appearances out on the wing. That goalscoring rate would fall slightly over the course of his career to one in every four but the opposition would improve from the League of Ireland, to the English Football League, and then the Premier League itself.
With his move to English Championship side Reading already a done deal, Doyle played his last match for Cork City on June 6th, 2005. In a game under the floodlights, Cork City beat Finn Harps 2-0. Doyle was substituted to a standing ovation in the 68th minute, but not before he grabbed both goals in front of the 5000-strong Turner’s Cross crowd. His first impact came ten minutes in when he beat the last man – Shane Bradley – who then pulled Doyle to the ground.
“Doyle was always involved,” The Irish Independent match report stated. “His pace, close control and powerful running meant that the Harps' defence suffered a torrid time.
“Little wonder, then, that it was the Reading-bound hotshot who opened the scoring on 30 minutes after a lovely piece of inter-play with O'Callaghan.
“O'Callaghan was through on goal from Neal Horgan's incisive pass and then made sure of a successful end to the move by squaring the ball back for Doyle to knock it home.
“The second goal arrived on the stroke of half-time and again it was as a result of a combination between O'Callaghan and Doyle. This time, O'Callaghan's corner from the right fell to Doyle's feet near the penalty spot and he shot left-footed on the turn to beat goalkeeper Gavin Cullen.
Joining Reading the next day, along with teammate Shane Long, Doyle cost the Berkshire club £78,000 – a crazily low fee even then, for what returned the club 56 goals in 163 games across two Championship seasons and two in the Premier League. At this point, Doyle was still maintaining his rough return of one goal in three games, but his 2009 move from the Championship to Premier League Wolves saw his return drop and not again in English football, nor his career, would Doyle hit ten or more goals in a single season.
The accolades amassed from his Irish career, both domestically and internationally, tally one League of Ireland title, the FAI U21 Player of the Year, and the FAI Senior International Player of the Year in 2008 and 2010. In England, he won the Football League Championship with Reading in his first season, earning a spot in the Team of the Year, as well as winning the club’s Player of the Season award as well as the Fans’. In 2014, he won League One with Wolves, before moving to Colorado Rapids in 2015, where he saw out the final years of his career, before retiring at the age of 35.
From a 19-year old signed from St. Pats to an international career of 64 caps and 14 goals, Kevin Doyle was a short-lived Cork City legend.
By Jordan Florit
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