Tipperary's longest ever serving GAA administrator, former Runai Tomas O'Baroid gave an emotional graveside oration for his "best friend" -' the indestructible colossus' that was John Doyle.
Recalling The Legend's glory days, his power and grace on the field of play, his fearless determination and steely composure, his immense contribution to the game of hurling, Tomas O'Baroid stated that his friend was born with an innate ability which drove him to greatness.
As the packed attendance gathered around John Doyle's grave in the shadow of Holycross Abbey with the River Suir flowing gently by, the former Sarsfields player said:
Is onoir mhor domsa an oraid seo a thabhairt ag an uaigh ag socraidh do dhuine dos na -h-ionamaithe is fearr a bhi riamh ag Thiobraid Arainn, Sean O Duill.
William Shakespeare once said;
Some people are born great,
Some achieve greatness,
Some have greatness thrust upon them.
I am not sure if it has been conclusively proven whether hurlers are born or made, but, there can be no denying that John Doyle achieved greatness during a distinguished hurling career. So, he must have been born with some innate ability which drove him to achieve this greatness.
John Doyle stands apart in the hurling world with a list of honours which mark him as a hurling legend - which can be called the golden era of Tipperary hurling.
He showed early signs of his potential as a juvenile with club Holycross Ballycahill and with Thurles CBS. This potential was soon recognised with a three year stint with the Tipperary minor hurling team ( 1946 -1948) winning a minor All-Ireland in 1947 and captain of the team losing the 1948 Munster Minor final. Senior recognition soon came his way and with his selection on the 1948 NHL team, he went on to win his first National hurling league medal.
An unbroken service of 20 years at the highest level was to follow with a litany of honours unparalleled and unlikely to be ever equaled. Among his most noted achievements was:
*8 All-Ireland senior medals out of 10 appearances;
*10 Munster senior medals out of 14 appearances;
*A record 11 National Hurling League award - captain in 1955;
*7 Railway Cup medals;
*5 Oireachtas medals;
*Selection on 4 occasions on the Irish team to play the combined universities;
*Nomination as Texaco Hurler of the Year 1964;
*Selection on the Team of the Century 1984 and the Millennium Team in 2000.
*John was also honoured to be Patron of the London-Tipperary Association.
*Finally, three senior hurling championship medals with Holycross Ballycahill - the ones he treasured most.
From the time John Doyle made his debut for Holycross Ballycahill in 1946, he was fired by a burning ambition to play with Tipperary. This ambition, this will to succeed and win, saw him make his mark and ensured that he remained in the top flight of hurling for over two decades. His singular dedication, allied to a fearless determination and harsh style of play earned the respect of friend and foe alike.
At the age of 19, John Doyle was playing in his first All-Ireland senior final. Little did we think on that September day, 61 years ago, as Tipperary and Laois lined up behind the Artane Boys Band that a new chapter in Tipperary hurling was about to commence. Tipperary began a period of dominance , winning three All-Ireland's in a row but they had to give best to Cork and Wexford through the mid fifties. Oddly enough, John Doyle considered retiring after 1957, finding the game demanding and time consuming, as he strove to combine his farming career, raising a young family, and hurling. Fortunately, he was prevailed upon to continue and his efforts were crowned with considerable success during the next seven or eight years with possibly some of the greatest Tipperary players of all time.
John Doyle's presence contributed significantly to Tipps glorious period of supremacy in the early sixties. He was an integral part of the most formidable rearguard in the country - a defence which took no prisoners, which showed power and strength and which was christened ‘Hells Kitchen'.
Certainly John was part of some great teams and when we look at some of the defensive lines he was part of - Byrne, Brennan, Doyle; Finn, Wall, Doyle; Burns, Wall, Doyle; Doyle, Maher, Carey - we look with awe on the quality and power and perhaps we can understand the apprehension and trepidation which opponents must have harboured when facing them. And so, in Tipperary's onward march, the list of All-Ireland's was growing and John, being an ever present member of the team, eventually found himself in 1965 seeking to equal Christy Rings outstanding record of 8 senior hurling All-Ireland medals.
The record is duly equaled and a chance to surpass it presented itself in 1967, but Kilkenny proved too strong and the curtain was drawn on John's inter county career. He continued to hurl at club level for a further two years and thereafter gave tremendous service at club, county and national level as administrator, selector and team trainer. His retirement left a void on the playing field but an important and enduring legacy remained. His deeds on the field brought much enjoyment to his county men - the memories of an indestructible colossus, not standing on ceremony, ignoring personal safety can stir deep emotions within us to this day. We gloried in his performances which were fearless and full blooded. We relished the hip to hip duels, the shoulder to shoulder tackles and the body check against opponents.
We have lasting memories of John bringing the ball out of defence, leaving opponents sprawling in his wake and making a mighty clearance to lift the crowd and inspire his team. John epitomized Tipperary - immovable like Slievenamon; displaying power and raw courage; a veritable Matt the Thrasher in whom Kickhams Knocknagow took immense pride; we are proud to pay tribute to him today.
He was one of the few inter county hurlers who also served the GAA as a Central Council representative, a County Board representative, Club Chairman and County selector.
I suppose any man that has had as many articles penned about him, a song dedicated to him, and now a GAA centre called after him, has to be someone special. When you visit the Doyle home in Glenbane, which I do on a regular basis, you enter a home which represents the best of Irish Ireland - a home where the table is always laid. Ann is a most genial hostess and there is always a welcome for friend and stranger alike. These traditional qualities have, thankfully, been passed on to their family and I would like on this occasion to express my admiration for the bond of friendship which has been nurtured and developed by the family over the years.
You can rest comfortably in the company of the Doyle family on any occasion and in any location. This togetherness and camaraderie which all the family members have for each other is a rare gift in this day and age agus le cunamh De will always be there.
For me, this is a nostalgic occasion, because he was my best friend.
I take this opportunity on behalf of you all to offer my sincere sympathy to John's wife Ann, his seven children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, sons-in-law, daughters in-law, relatives and friends.
May the green sward of his beloved Holycross rest lightly on him.
Go ndearna Dia trocaire ar a anam dilis.