DEYLI graduate Doyle learning to be a leader
By John Harrington
Throughout his early and mid-teens, Keith Doyle defined himself by his success as a Gaelic Footballer.
One of the most talented young players in Roscommon, he represented his county at U-14, U-15, and U-16 level.
But just when it looked like his performance graph would keep soaring upwards, his body betrayed him.
It was as if he couldn’t physically adapt to a growth spurt that saw him go from 5’ 11’’ to 6’ 3’’ in a couple of years because he kept breaking down with one chronic injury after another.
A torn hip-flexor kept him out for six months but that was only the start of his woes.
He then tore muscle fibres off his hip bone, suffered a stress fracture in his back, and broke his wrist. All told, the catalogue of injuries side-lined him for two and a half years.
Gaelic Football was his passion, so to have it taken away from him for so long was very hard for the teenager to take.
“Oh, yeah, so frustrating,” Doyle told GAA.ie. “I was just kicking myself ever single day because I could do absolutely nothing. It was just so boring and I didn't know what to do with myself, I was just moping around the place.”
Doyle badly needed a new outlet for his energies, preferably in the sphere of Gaelic Games, and he counts himself very fortunate he found just that when he signed up to the Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative
Since 2014, the Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative has seen over 500 young GAA members both male and female aged 15 to 18 years complete the year-long programme, gaining a level 6 third level qualification in Youth Leadership and Community Action for their efforts.
Those who take part in the programme are given the opportunity to build their leadership skills, communication skills, self-awareness, and community skills and values.
It was a transformative experience for Doyle who went from being frustrated by his inability to play football to being energised by moving out of his comfort zone and testing himself in ways he would never previously have had before.
“It was great to be able to do the Dermot Earley Youth Leadership initiative and get back into GAA even if I wasn't able to play on the pitch,” said Doyle.
“It was a very positive experience for me, I enjoyed it hugely.
“It was good to get to talk to everyone else who took part and learn from their opinions.
“They were complete strangers I wouldn't have met before and we were learning about effective communication which I would have gained a lot of confidence from.
“You're learning how to speak publicly and you have to give presentations every now and again.
“So I had to talk in front of a group of strangers that I wouldn't really have known and which was tough at the beginning, but as the course went on it was something that helped me a lot.
“If you're a captain of a team you would occasionally talk in a dressing-room, but it was good to have a different setting to do it in.
“Before I did the Dermot Earley Youth Leadership I wouldn't have been as confident as I am now anyway. I would have been more inclined to hold back.”
Doyle’s unfortunate run of injuries are now thankfully behind him and he got the perfect opportunity to display his newly minted public-speaking skills when he helped Roscommon CBS win the All-Ireland Colleges ‘B’ Football Final in Croke Park last April.
Crowned Man of the Match after scoring two points from midfield, being interviewed in front of the tv cameras by the side of the pitch didn’t faze him in the slightest.
“Yeah, I had a good chance to practice the public speaking alright on live television,” laughs Doyle.
“I didn't really have a clue what to say, though, I still can't put it into words, it was an absolutely amazing moment.
“It definitely made the experience of winning the All-Ireland all the more special because I'd had those two years with all of those injuries.
“You could nearly say it was meant to be. It was well worth it anyway to through all of those rehabilitations to experience that moment.”
The All-Ireland Colleges Final was his first time to play on the Croke Park pitch but Doyle experienced another memorable day in the stadium last May when he received his Dermot Earley Leadership Initiative certificate from GAA President John Horan, a moment he describes as “a dream come through”.
Applications for the 2019-2020 Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative are now open, and Doyle believes any teenager (aged between 15 and 18) who signs up will be find it to be a hugely positive experience.
“I'd recommend it, 100 per cent, definitely, it was a great experience in my opinion,” said Doyle.
“For me personally it was great to have a different outlet in the GAA apart from just playing football.
“I’m studying for my Leaving Cert now and I do think it has helped me prepare because while I was doing the Dermot Earley Youth Leadership Initiative I became a good bit more mature.
“I realise now that study is more important than I would have thought before.
“So it's helped in other aspects of my life as well, especially at the moment because I'm studying for the Leaving Cert.”