Photos by Pat Tinsley
Kildare are almost certain to be missing Eoin Doyle when they play either Monaghan or Armagh in the All-Ireland qualifiers in 13 days time as the Naas man prepares to undergo surgery on a broken thumb suffered in the build-up to Sunday's Leinster final against Dublin.
The Kildare captain injured his thumb during a training match in Johnstownbridge eight days before the game, but such is the nature of the man he was always going to do his utmost to feature in Kildare's biggest game in many years when they took on the All-Ireland champions. Doyle's importance to the team is two-fold; he acts as a sweeper for large swathes of the game and is also the defensive organiser, while his ability to win 50/50 balls and carry from defence is an aspect that has become crucial to this young Kildare side.
It was always likely that manager Cian O'Neill would give him every chance of playing in Sunday's clash with the Dubs, and Doyle even put of having surgery on his thumb to make himself available.
"It’s just a measure of the man; there was no way he wasn’t going to be playing today," remarked O'Neill after the game.
"Eoin broke his thumb last week and he just felt that he could get through and we felt that he could get through along with him. He played as much as he could in the game and I think put in a real stellar performance considering. There was obviously some parts of his game that he couldn’t execute, but I think that was far superseded by the brilliant things he did in marshalling that defence for large periods. It’s most likely he won’t be available in two weeks’ time. It’s most likely, but we’ll see."
Doyle will undergo surgery tomorrow morning at Connolly Hospital, and the period of recovery could be anywhere from 2-4 weeks, so the management have put no timeframe on when he is expected back. His left hand was heavily strapped and there were instances where you could see the 26-year-old reaching for the ball with his right instead of doing a more natural thing of using his left, but he had a fine game.
You certainly wouldn't have thought he was injured in the first minute when he won a superb ball out on front of Ciarán Kilkenny to set up an early goal chance for Tommy Moolick, and his leadership and overall play was exemplary for his remaining 52 minutes on the field before he was eventually replaced by Peter Kelly.
He admitted after the game that there was plenty of discomfort there, but he was always going to back himself to perform if he thought he wouldn't be a passenger on Kildare's big day.
"I was supposed to get surgery on it last week and I put it off for a while to give myself every chance to play, so I have to go in now and get it done tomorrow," said Doyle.
"It was uncomfortable; at times it was ok, then I took a couple of falls and a couple of tackles and it really kicked in and then having no movement made the ball skills really difficult. Pain wise I could have kept going, and at the start of the second half… against Dublin you need six fit defenders and playing with five and a half is not going to be good enough.
"Myself and Cian and the pyshio had a lot of honest conversations this week and the one thing that I said is that I didn’t want to play and be a detriment to the team. You can’t play against Dublin with five and a half defenders so I went out and tried my best and it lasted for 50 odd minutes anyways."
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