John Doyle

Our Most Famous Son - the legendary John Doyle

Born : 1930 - 2010
Tipp championship career : 1949-1967

Club : Holycross-Ballycahill

Honours :
8 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Medals – 1949, ’50, ’51, ’58, ’61, ’62,’64, 65.
10 Munster Senior Hurling Medals - 1949, ’50, ’51, ’58, ’60, ’61, ’62, ’63, ’64, 65, ‘67.
11 National League Medals – 1949, ’50, ’52, ’54, ’55 (Capt.), ’57, ’59, ’60, ’61, ’64, ’65.
1 All-Ireland Minor Hurling Medal – 1947
2 Munster Minor Hurling Medals – 1946, ’47.
6 Railway Cup Medals – 1951, ‘’52, ’53, ’55, ’60, ’63.
3 County Senior Medals - 1948, ’51, ’54.
4 Mid Tipp Medals - 1947, ’48, ’51, ’54.
County Minor Medals - 1947, ’48.
6 Oireachtas Medals 1949, ‘60, ’61, ’63, ’64, ’65.
Left-Full-Back on the Team of the Century – 1984.
Left-Full-Back on Team of the Millenium – 2000.
Left-Full-Back on Tipperary Team of the Millenium – 1999.
Texaco Hall of Fame Award - 1992
Texaco Hurler of the Year – 1964

John Doyle first wore the Tipperary jersey in the 1946 minor championship when he lined out at right-full-back on a team which lost the All-Ireland Final to a controversial scrambled goal by Dublin which gave the Leinster team a a two point win. John made amends the following year when Borris-Ileigh’s Paddy Kenny captained Tipp to minor victory, and was still eligible for the minor grade in 1948 when he lined out at midfield for Tipp. However, success was to elude him on this occasion with the eventual All-Ireland champions Waterford, defeating Tipp well.

John was immediately called into the senior squad and played as a substitute in the 1948 National League Final when Tipp lost to Cork. Tipp who had lost in the first match to Limerick in each of the previous three years again faced Cork in the first round of the 1949 Munster championship. This game ended in a draw at 3-10 each, and Tipp made a few changes for the replay. One of these changes was the championship debut of John Doyle at left-full-back. It was to be 1968, nineteen years later, before the county lined out in another championship game without the familiar figure of the Holycross man.

By the time he was 21 John was the holder of three All-Ireland senior medals. When Cork thwarted Tipp’s bid for the fourth title in a row, it was the start of a comparatively barren spell for Tipp. Cork were to defeat in the Munster Finals of ’53, and ’54 as well, while in the next three years Tipp failed to reach the Munster Final. Despite the lack of success in the championship, Tipp were enjoying great success in the National League and by 1957 when Tipp beat Kilkenny by seven points in the final, John Doyle was winning his sixth League medal. Despite being just 27 years old John was on the brink of joining his 29 year old club-mate Pat Stakelum in retirement. However, John was persuaded to remain on and was given a new lease of life when moved to the left-half back position where he flourished in the relative freedom of the half-back-line demonstrating as Irish Press GAA correspondent Padraig Puirseal said many years later that “he was a master of all the skills” – a fact he also demonstrated when operating at centre-forward for his club. He gave a man of the match performance in the 1958 Munster Final against Waterford, and was equally dominant when Tipp dethroned the champions Kilkenny in the semi-final on the way to John fourth All-Ireland medal when Galway were the victims.
The Tipperary selectors played John Doyle at full-forward on an experimental basis but the retirement of Jimmy Finn changed this as no county could afford to lose two such accomplished players from its defence, so John returned to the number two jersey where he played the rest of his career. John’s tally of All-Ireland medals had moved to record equalling eight by 1965, and in that same year he also won his eleventh National League medal which makes him the most decorated player in the history of inter-county hurling. Another highlight for Doyle was winning the Hurler of the Year award in 1964. John Doyle retired in 1967 having won his tenth (another record) Munster championship medal, but failing narrowly to surpass the record he shares with Christy Ring.
John Doyle remains the ultimate hurling icon in a county which likes its heroes uncomplicated, courageous and consistent – he probably best represents how Tipperary hurling sees itself. Perhaps Paddy Downey summed up John Doyle and what he means to Tipperary hurling people, as well as anyone has when he wrote on the occasion of John winning his eighth All-Ireland medal in 1965; “If anyone is hurling deserved to join Ring on the magical pinnacle of fame, that man is John Doyle of Holycross. Not only for the splendid service that he has given to the game and to his county or so long, but because in hurling as well as in mien he typifies our concept of the archetypal Tipperary hurler. The advertising men, if they had anything to do with it, would call it “brand image”. Hurling men might not recognise it by that name; yet it conveys rather neatly the quality that is part of Tipperary’s hurling tradition. It is a quality of style that is intrinsically a part of the man; the rugged power, the sweeping stroke, the touch of dare-devilry, perhaps ; and certainly the cold courage. The image was fathered by Kickham’s mythical Matt the Thresher. Tipperary has always had someone – many times more than one – to fill the role. For seventeen years, and to this day, they have had John Doyle, who more than any other player of this generation, personifies that traditional image of Tipperary hurling and hurling men”.