Kerry Footballers

Miko Doyle - A Legendary Kerry Captain

December 22nd, 2009
by Weeshie Fogarty

I have been keeping readers in touch in relation to an ongoing project on the legendary winning Kerry winning captains which I am involved in and the deeper we delve into the lives of those now gone to their eternal reward the more fascinating our task becomes. When I say we I refer to my good friend Christy Riordan C/R videos Caherceiveen and myself and this year old labor of love is slowly coming to its conclusion. It is intended to launch the finished six hour DVD/film in March. Miko Doyle the man who led Kerry to victory in 1937 has always been for me just a name that periodically comes up for discussion and I have found that most people if not all know very little about this brilliant Austin Stacks player. So this week let’s rectify that omission.

Miko Doyle played with Kerry from 1929 to 1939. He set a remarkable record as he holds a unique claim to fame being the only player in history to have won four All Ireland senior medals before the age of twenty one. He first wore the green and gold as a junior in 1928. His wonderful ability was quickly recognized and the following year he was a member of the winning Kerry side which went on to achieve a memorable four in a row wins, 1929 to '32 inclusive. This magnificent sequence featured two epic finals against Kildare, 1929 and ’31. That great side also overcame Monaghan in the 1930 decider and Mayo two years later.  Miko had first been drafted into the team in 1929 when Din Joe Bailey was unavailable against Clare in the Munster final in Killarney.

Then after a lapse of five years Miko was back to lead Kerry to victory as The Sam Maguire Cup returned once again to the Rock.  He had captained his famed club to the 1936 county championship and was the unanimous choice to lead the Kingdom in 1937. It was a memorable year for the county as they played seven games to capture their 12th All Ireland title. It was also the 50th year of the All Ireland championship. Miko played centre back in all those game with the exception of the final when he lined out at full forward. Exactly why he was moved from his best position is unknown, probably an injury, but what we do know is that the regular full forward that year Sean McCarthy was injured for the drawn final. McCarthy from Tralee had scored 6-2 in five games that memorable year and was the county’s top scorer.

Miko led his men out against Laois in the semi-final that year of 1937 and it took a superb display of goalkeeping from Danno Keefe to secure a share of the spoils and send the game to a re-play. This took place in Waterford City on August 29th. Kerry trailed by a goal with minutes remaining. Then leading by example the Kerry captain set off up field in a dashing run, he passed to his club mate Tim Landers who crashed the ball to the net. The sides were level. From the kick out Mickey Lyne gained possession and pointed from far out.  This point from the Killarney Legion priest would assure Miko Doyle the honor of leading his county around Croke Park in the forth coming All Ireland final.

Cavan were Kerry’s next opponents and two stunning early goals from Miko’s Austin Stacks club mate John Joe "Purty" Landers got them off to the perfect start. It was a dramatic game and entering the final seconds the sides were level. Then came a moment of high drama. Paddy Boylan of Cavan gained possession close to the Kerry goal.  Miko and Joe Keohane spoke about the incident years later explaining that Boylan "tapped" the ball over the bar with his hand.  The umpire waved the white flag and Miko recalled, "I was sure that my chance of captaining Kerry to victory was gone". But the referee had adjudged that Boylan had thrown the ball over the bar and the game ended in a draw, Kerry, 2-5 Cavan, 1-8. Even Cannon Hamilton who broadcast the game was unaware the point was disallowed and informed the whole country that Cavan were All Ireland champions. Indeed many of the spectators left  home also unaware that the match was a draw.

The re-play was packed with incident. It was a very young Kerry side and Paddy Kennedy missed the re-play due to a broken collar bone sustained in a club match. Timmy o Leary the smallest man on the field and a member of my own club Killarney Legion scored two brilliant goals that day. He also came in for some very late tackles. Kerry officials and supporters were incensed with the treatment handed out to Timmy. They rushed on to the pitch from behind the goal and a Cavan player was struck. Miko and Jim Smith of Cavan clashed "heavily". The Cavan man was helped off the field with blood streaming from a facial injury. Miko played on. At one time there were seven Cavan men stretched on the ground. In later years (the early sixties) I became good friends with the late Timmy O Leary when both of us worked in the Kerry Mineral Water factory on the Muckross Road Killarney (he in the office and I a helper on the lorries), and he would recount events from that torrid game Then Tim o Donnell went off injured and a young lad not even listed on the programme came on. 

Tom "Gegga" o Connor was his name.  Years later "Small" Jer o Leary from Killarney a selector that day told me that "Gegga" had played so well in a trial game the previous week he had to be included. It was the West Kerry mans first time playing senior for Kerry and of course he went on to become a legend in himself.  Miko Doyle finished the game that day in 1937 scoring a superb goal. He was presented with the Sam Maguire Cup on the Hogan Stand. However the events on the field that day were to prevent him from returning with the Cup to his county. Miko became ill during the night and was admitted to the Mater Hospital in Dublin and did not return home for some days. It was a bitter disappointment for the brilliant Austin Stacks man and to my knowledge he is the only winning Kerry captain not to return home with the victorious side.  He failed to line out with club or county until the following August 1938 when he scored 2-1 against Cork in the Munster final. He played one more game at full forward against Tipperary in 1939 and retired following the final when Kery beat Galway.

Miko went to work and live in Brooklyn New York in the early sixties and returned to Ireland in 1976 to take up residence in Dublin. He died in 1980 and had been pre-deceased by his wife Marjorie. They had one daughter and three sons. This legendary Kerry captain lies buried in Old Rath Cemetery Tralee. It has been a privilege to recall his wonderful career. 

Fogra; In the Sunday Independent next Sunday you can read a special full page in dept analysis on this massive thirteen month on going project. Reporter Dermot Crow spend a day in Kerry recently researching the stories behind the captains. Editing of over one hundred hours of film already shot has begun at the C/R studios Caherceiveen and profits from the film will go to a Kerry charity.

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom