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'You hear about lads being depressed and all they want to do is kick a soccer ball... I love being home'

Over a year on from his retirement, former Ireland international Kevin Doyle couldn’t be happier.

Kevin Doyle pictured at the Aviva Stadium Tour launch today.
Kevin Doyle pictured at the Aviva Stadium Tour launch today.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Updated at 18.57

IT WILL BE two years this September since Kevin Doyle announced his retirement from football, but the former Ireland international says he is not feeling overly nostalgic for his playing days.

For many ex-pros, coping with the considerable change that life post-playing entails represents a daunting challenge.

Statistics in recent years have shown that a significant number of former footballers struggle with issues such as depression, as they try to adjust back to a life of relative normality.

The loss of the natural routine, which a week filled with training and playing provides, can be difficult to cope with.

But the former Reading and Wolves player says he has found the transition relatively seamless so far.

It’s gone, touch wood, swimmingly,” he says. “You hear about lads being depressed and all they want to do is kick a soccer ball.

“I love being home first of all. That makes it good. Day to day, my father and myself breed horses in Wexford — I’ve my own, he’s his own. I’m busy, which is the main thing. I don’t have time to be reminiscing, thinking about it or wishing this, that or the other. I played until basically the end of my career anyway, it wasn’t like I retired at 26 or 27. I really enjoyed my career. I feel like I got the most out of it.

I miss being super fit. But then the work required to be really fit, I don’t miss that side of it, just the natural consequences of playing football and being fit. I find it hard to motivate myself to stay fit, but other than that, it’s gone really well.”

Even the shared sense of camaraderie with fellow pros, which former footballers often cite as their favourite aspect of the game, is not something Doyle routinely pines for these days.

“I could take it or leave it. Dressing-room banter’s great when things are going well, but when you’re losing games it’s not so great. But it’s grand, I’ve plenty of friends at home, plenty of craic with them, I don’t need a dressing room for that.

“The fact that I’ve moved home and am with friends and things, maybe if I was living on my own in England it would be a different story.

“I speak to the odd player I used to play with. Everyone moves on and does their own thing. All the lads I was with that are still playing, they’ve their own lives and things to be worrying about. So I wouldn’t be keeping touch too much with different players, the odd one or two.”

Kevin Doyle dejected Kevin Doyle played 64 times for Ireland. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Doyle certainly has had plenty to keep him distracted since being forced to end a 16-year playing career on medical advice, after suffering two concussions in his last season in America with Colorado Rapids.

In the intervening period, the 35-year-old has agreed to an advisory role with Wexford GAA’s U20 football side, undertaken a coaching role with the Ireland U17 team, as well as working as a pundit for RTÉ on everything from Champions League to League of Ireland and World Cup coverage.

“It’s hard work,” he says of his role as an analyst. “Anytime during my career, when I’ve done the odd game, if I was injured maybe and Sky were doing a game, [they'd say] ‘you’re injured, will you come on and do the game?’ It’s easy because you’re talking about your own team and you don’t have to do any research.

“Whereas now, it’s harder. You have to do a lot of research. It’s something you have to learn, [the more you do it] the easier it gets like any job. If I’m going to be good at it, it takes a good bit of effort, which it should do.

“But it’s enjoyable, I’m glad I’m asked to do it. I do enjoy sitting and watching a game and really enjoying having a point of view on a game.  And not just sitting there half a sleep watching a game, you have to pick out clips, analyse it and have stuff ready at half-time and afterwards.

“If you’re not used to something, it takes a lot of focus. I look at the lads who have done it a long time — Liam Brady, or someone like that, it’s so easy for [them]. 

You don’t want to be too nervous. Damien Duff, speaking to him about it, and he’s done it a lot more than me, and he says he’s still nervous before everything. You’re live on air and you have to come up with something — something that’s not just another thing.

“You’ll have clips coming up to half-time and loads of things ready to go and the other team will score. Everything you’ve done has gone out the window and it’s like ‘shit’. You have to get your clips ready and your spiel ready.”

Doyle will be working as part of RTÉ’s coverage for the upcoming Champions League clash between Liverpool and Porto this week. One of the biggest challenges, he says, is coming up with a unique perspective on a team such as Liverpool, about whom so much has already been written and said. Covering League of Ireland or national team matches, by contrast, is a different matter.

I was in Turner’s Cross the other night. It’s the same for me driving to Cork as going to Dublin to do the Champions League. But you’re there and you’re live and you’re at the game, so you get more of the atmosphere and you’re freezing. You don’t really have much time with a League of Ireland game, you’ve 10 minutes to cram in a little bit. Whereas tomorrow night, we’ve an hour before kick-off to talk about Liverpool and Porto and there’s an awful lot talked about them.

“I would have been getting emails from RTÉ over the past few days — different things and stats and articles to do a bit research on.

“It’s hard when someone like Liverpool have been covered so much, so much said about them, but it’s the same for everyone. How do you look at it from a different angle, or see something different and fill that for an hour?

I don’t think I’ve done an Ireland game [as a pundit yet]. I’m down to do one soon.  There’s a bigger changeover now — six months ago, it would have been harder [to analyse them]. Even doing Cork now, I find it hard. I feel an affinity for Cork City and doing the last two games, it’s hard to not say they haven’t played well.

“I’m good friends with Liam Kearney, who’s on the coaching staff and I’d be doing my best not to be over critical. That’s something you have to learn. My job now is having to call it as I see it. It’s difficult trying not to upset people.”

Asked if he has ever received pushback for any of his comments when analysing games on TV, Doyle laughs in recollection of one particular memory.

“No one’s come to me or got on to me. I have a Twitter account, I don’t use it a whole lot. But I was doing the World Cup, I can’t remember what game. I said the striker ‘should have scored that,’ then there were all these messages: ‘Oh, well you wouldn’t have fucking scored.’ I’m just commenting on it, I’m not the one out on the pitch doing it, but other people take so much offence to a comment you’ve said. 

“I said something about [Xherdan] Shaqiri. He took his top off and I just didn’t think he looked the fittest. He’s no Ronaldo with his top off. I said it anyway. People really take it to heart. But you support the team and the players, so it’s understandable too I suppose.”

Originally published at 16.26

Irish football international Kevin Doyle was on hand to launch the new and improved Aviva Stadium Tour. The Aviva Stadium Tour provides fans with a unique behind the scenes experience of Ireland’s primary international sport’s stadium giving them not just an understanding of Ireland’s international sporting heritage but also a first-hand experience of what match day is like for our international football and rugby players.

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Paul Fennessy

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