Liam Doyle set for Down retirement as Ambrose Rodgers remains undecided

Jim McCory will lose out on 15 years worth of experience as former captain calls it a day

Fifteen years after his senior debut for the Down footballers, if not exactly after fifteen years of service, Liam Doyle is set to announce his retirement from inter county football.

Already minus a number of the county's more experienced player such as Dan Gordan and Ambrose Rodgers who have yet to commit to the cause, the loss of the former team captain adds further demands upon Jim McCory's young panel.

Doyle made his debut in 2000 having captained the Down team that won the Ulster Minor Championship in 1999, and later that year the All-Ireland Minor Football Championship. Along his rise to prominence he won a Sigerson Cup medal with UUJ in 2001, winning the player of the tournament award.

By 2007 he was captain of the Down seniors and at a time when he should have been reaching the peak of his powers he would instead spend much of the next four years injured. A horrible run of misfotune which had put his playing career in jeopardy.


His 2007 season was disrupted by hamstring and quad injuries. In 2008 he suffered a cruciate ligament injury in his left knee during the Ulster championship. His rehab was delayed through an infection in the knee. Once recovered he would then suffer from quite serious tendonitis in his right knee extending his spell on the sidelines further.

Adding insult to injury, quite literally, during that spell on the sidelines he missed out on the county’s run to the 2010 All-Ireland final. Then-manager James McCartan invited Doyle to travel to Croke Park with the team for that but he declined to do so. Forever the unsung hero.

Nonetheless he would make a dramatic return in 2011 , becoming a regular in the half forward line once again, although he missed the team’s crucial qualifier defeat to Cork with another hamstring complaint having been named to start.

In 2012 he appeared reinvigorated playing in the centre back position during the national football league, scoring 1-6 in the opening two games.

Yet his campaign was again shortened through injury, he later revealed that he was receiving injections to speed up his recovery from a calf muscle tear throughout the year. He did return to start in that year’s Ulster final defeat.

In 2013 niggling injuries again reduced his impact and last summer he featured just once as a substitute against Leitrim. He had yet to commit to the panel for the 2015 season.

At 33 any hope of a second revival had seemed unlikely, and it’s believed that his retirement will be officially announced in the next week. Drawing a career which began with undeniable promise and continued through unwavering commitment and perseverance, to an end.

Ambrose won’t say either way

Meanwhile Ambrose Rodgers remains undecided over his Down future. The midfielder says that he was unable to commit to the Down set up when the panel initially came together, although he has not entirely ruled out a return at some point.

Nonetheless it looks unlikely that he will re-appear in the red and black in 2015; he says he has not been in contact with McCory since declining to join up with the squad.

“I’m playing away with the club, taking a break and I’m enjoying the time away from it.

“I honestly don’t know what I’ll be doing at the moment.”

The Down manager says he is not interested in talking about the players who are not at present available to him, at the request of his players.

Ahead of the weekend's Allianz League game against unbeaten Galway Caolan Mooney remains a doubt having missed last weekend's tie.

Mooney will be assessed on Thursday when a decision will be made on his availability. It is expected that he will be passed fit to feature at some point in the game.

Having injured his hamstring against Roscommon four weeks ago it was expected that he would be out for six weeks but his recovery has been ahead of schedule.

Down corner back Damien Turley has transferred from his native RGU Downpatrick club to North Meath side Meath Hill. He now resides and works in the area and will no doubt give their junior championship hopes a major boost.

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue is a former Irish Times journalist