Doyle is confident Carnew can deliver
Captaincy a huge honour for Jack
THERE’S not a single person with even the slightest bit of interest in the game of hurling in Wicklow who won’t have been impressed by the performances of Jack Doyle in 2020.
Lockdown did him no harm given the physical development he has underwent and his hurling and courage are of an especially high standard since the first ball was thrown in.
James Hickey and his management team were no doubt looking for someone this young Carnew team would look up to and respect and in Jack Doyle they have a superb candidate. Quietly spoken and an utter gentleman off the field, it’s the honesty of effort, the bravery and the pure sportsmanship that stands out in the midst of battle and Sunday is likely to be no different.
It hasn’t been the easiest of years for Jack or his family. His father Jim Bob has been fighting a brave fight against illness this past while and the young Carnew captain has also had to contend with finishing college and starting out on a career as a primary school teacher.
Hurling people will know Jim Bob Doyle very well and referees will be somewhat familiar with him as well but there was a particularly touching moment after the final whistle of the semi-final when Jack Doyle ran the length of the pitch to the gate at the bottom corner to warmly embrace his father who had watched the battle with Éire Óg from his car.
Hurling to Jim Bob is like a religion and it’s no different with Jack. It’s deep in their soul and Sunday represents a great occasion given the unfairness and inequality of life sometimes as it hits us between the eyes with heavy loads we weren’t expecting.
Standing in their way are Bray Emmets, the defending champions. What’s Jack Doyle expecting come 4.30pm in the county grounds.
‘Expecting a massive battle, I suppose. Bray are county champions; they’ve been here before. Expecting a titanic battle really. We’re confident enough. I think we’ve played well in most matches this year. We’re creating more chances than the last few years,’ said Jack, who added that the improvements they’ve shown under the guidance of James Hickey have brought them to a place where they can realistically challenge for the title.
‘Definitely. When he came first, as a team I don’t think we were ready or mature enough to win it. I think that there’s a group of us there now for four or five years and I think it’s time. James has installed great belief in all of us. It’s time to make that next step and go
on and win it.
‘All the lads have massive respect for him. The whole thing was built around respect and he’s installed discipline from the first day he came in. If you start to lose discipline you won’t be playing. We have massive respect for him. This year we promised him that we’d do our own extra training, put in an extra effort to go to that next level,’ said.
The captaincy of any team is a significant honour. Some will laugh it off as just going up for the toss but in the modern game it’s much more than that. Jack Doyle doesn’t laugh it off.
‘James came to me one day after training and asked me if I’d like to be captain. I said I would. It’s a massive honour, even as a child growing up that’s what you want to do. Especially if you can captain your team and win the county final. That’s the big one.
‘It hasn’t changed anything for me. There are loads of leaders on that team already. Even the last day in the semi-final, like John Doyle Snr, Daire Foley, Padraig Doran, Martin O’Brien. I don’t feel any pressure. I really enjoy it. I probably talk a bit more and contact lads for different reasons but nothing too major,’ he said.
This Carnew side are a vastly different one than the team who lost out to Glenealy in 2018. In 2020, they welcome six players up from Minor. They’re provided a welcome boost both in games and in training.
‘A breath of fresh air. We’ve won a good few Minors in the last six or seven years but we just weren’t getting them through but last year’s team we’ve got loads from. The training has been brilliant, the competition for places is serious. The levels have just come up because they are all very good hurlers,’ said Jack.
‘Sometimes you might think that young lads coming up to adult that they might get bullied but they are well able to hold their own out there. There are no issues in that regard,’ he added.
Against Éire Óg, Carnew got a major test that while they were always in control of on the scoreboard were never resall;y free of the attacking threat that Eamonn Scallan’s men bring to the party.
‘They had the wind in the first half. They kind of hit a lot of stupid ball. They had the two lads inside and they didn’t use them like we thought they would. They were probably kicking themselves when they looked back at the match.
‘I think we got the match ups right, to be fair to James Hickey. Andy Hughes had a really good game out the field. We always had a small lead but it was a tough, tough battle because you were always wary of that threat,’ he said.
What are Jack Doyle and Carnew expecting from this Bray outfit? Where are they strong and where can Carnew hurt them?
‘They’re county champions. They’ve lads all over the field who can hurt you if you let them hurl. Especially their forwards, Christy has been doing it for the last 10 years, Mikey Boland, Davy Maloney this year is hurling well, and obviously John Henderson at centre back is a huge launch pad for them and he’s massive for them. They’ve a good midfield as well with Padraig Doyle.
‘We believe that we have the backs that can, not stop them, but hold them to as little as possible. Our backs, even in training, it’s very hard to get scores off them. And up front, we have forwards that on paper, if they hit form, they could really hurt a team. We haven’t scored goals this year but there are goals in them. We know what Enda can do, and John Doyle Jnr and Owen Young.
‘Look, it comes down to on the day and whoever wants it more. They’re favourites and rightly so, they’ve walked over every team apart from Glenealy,’ he said.
Ahead of the big game on Sunday it would be remiss of us to ask about Jim Bob.
‘Things are good now. He’s in remission. He’s going well. He’s so passionate. After the Éire Óg match, that week he was low in terms of energy levels but after that game it was like someone gave him a different drug. He was high as a kite. It was like that was the drug that he needed.
‘If there’s anyone in Carnew who wants to win it, it’s him. You can still hear him from the sideline. You want to do it for him and for the family,’ said Jack Doyle.