Eoin Doyle gives an honest and sporting interview after Naas journey comes to an end
It's hardly any wonder that, when everything was up in the air, Eoin Doyle was the man to calm things down in Naas.
It was eight weeks ago, on the back of a dispute in the build-up to the county semi-final, when Paul Kelly left his job and left the Naas senior footballers without a manager. Things had been moving along nicely then until suddenly, the biggest game of the year was on the horizon and there was no manager on the line.
Back then, especially when you consider the struggles they've had in recent years, you'd have thought that Naas were on a hiding to nothing and that, apart from a few headlines they didn't want, this was going to be another humdrum season without a smell of a trophy.
That's how a lot of people saw it but along with men like Eamonn Callaghan, like Cormac Kirwan and a few other Naas stalwarts, Eoin Doyle had other ideas. It's in the worst of times when leaders emerge and as well as having the desire to turn this thing around, more important than that, Doyle also had the ability.
With little or no time to work with, he took over as player/manager and as Eamonn Callaghan has explained many times in the last few weeks, he absolutely immersed himself in the task.
"Eoin has put a huge amount of time into it away from the football pitch to prepare us as professionally as we ever have been," Callaghan said to us during the week.
"He’s just an unbelievable character. He has great respect amongst the players and while I’m sure it’s taken a lot out of him, he certainly hasn’t shown it on the pitch."
And so from cloud-cuckoo-land to a Leinster final, over the next eight weeks Naas enjoyed one of their most memorable periods ever. Under Doyle's guidance, they won their first county title in 31 years and they had the whole country following them as, from a sticky situation to a special journey, they just kept on winning.
Eoin Doyle appreciation post 👏
As player-manager, he's inspired his club @NaasGAA to their first county title in 31 years. They've followed it up with a run in Leinster, which has brought them through to a semi-final on Sunday week. pic.twitter.com/1nEGbmCpYf
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) December 7, 2021
That run ended on Saturday night in Croke Park when they were out-classed by Kilmacud Crokes but all involved can be proud of the year they've put in, none-more-so than Doyle himself.
"We leave here with no excuses," the player-manager said afterwards in an endearing interview with RTÉ's Marie Crowe.
"Crokes were the better team on the day, particularly in that second half. We gave it everything, prepared as best as we could but there's no excuses.
"I'm very proud of the lads. Because it was a special year, after the circumstances that unfolded, it was just a journey that we went on the last seven/eight weeks but there are no excuses today. We gave it our best shot and I'm very proud of the lads and the club."
Doyle is 30 years of age, he's a Kildare captain and as he congratulated Kilmacud Crokes, as he wishes his club's hurlers the best of luck next weekend, it was very easy to see how he managed to turn this situation around for Naas.
"Those supporters have been behind us all year too. I just hope we have the same level of a crowd behind our hurlers next weekend in St Conleth's Park too and hopefully they can get their provincial title, for Brian and for James that were playing today, and for the whole club too. Hopefully they can go one better and they can win that one, please God."
"We knew Kilmacud would bring that bit of experience and that's what they did. They shored it up particularly in that second half and that's what experience does. Well done to them and I wish them the best of luck in everything they do going forward.
"We were missing a few lads but so were they, Paul Mannion wasn't playing as well, so I'm sure they'd have loved to have had him and that's just sport."
At the end of a remarkable journey Doyle spoke from the heart. That's what he's done all year.