The service and sports year of the popular late Kildare priest Father Jimmy Doyle will be honored in a tribute book to be published next week, entitled Sportsman and a Shepherd.
P. Doyle, who spent most of his four decades as a priest in County Kildare, was closely associated with the GAA in the various parishes he served.
A Sportsman and a Shepherd, Memories of an Inspiring Priest and GAA Devotee, is a full-color production with over 150 photographs and 50 stories about his life.
Due to the large number of Covid cases at present, a public launch of the book is unfortunately not possible.
P. Doyle served for more than a decade in both Naas and Newbridge and also served in Kilcock and Balyna. At the time of his sudden death at the age of 76 in October 2020, he was a parish priest in Cooleragh, Staplestown near Clane.
P. Jimmy after his installation as PP Cooleragh Staplestown in 2014 with Bishop Denis Nulty, Mary Earley and Mick O’Dwyer
P. Doyle was known as a softly gracious personality who was popular with young and old – especially the sick. He was easygoing and a great supporter of Gaelic games.
Bishop Denis Nulty and Bishop Paul Dempsey, co-pastors of Fr Jimmy, as well as family and friends have shared their memories of the sports-loving pastor in Sportsman and a Shepherd, along with Pastor Gregg Ryan, former Church of Ireland Rector of Clane and Millicent.
Internationally acclaimed soprano Celine Byrne shares her memories, and RTE sports journalist Damian Lawler, who lives in Naas, recalls his friendship with Fr. Doyle.
The so-called Fab Four – the current Kildare GAA management team of Glenn Ryan, Anthony Rainbow, Johnny Doyle and Dermot Earley have all shared their personal stories of how Fr. Jimmy encouraged them. Glenn Ryan described him as the unofficial confidant of many Kildare players.
‘Fab Four’ has each written a tribute to Fr. Jimmy for the book
Chairman of the Kildare GAA County Board, Mick Gorman (St. Laurence’s) said that Fr. Jimmy charmed school children with stories of GAA glories and influenced many clubs. Fr. Jimmy, he said, was a big supporter of county teams and a regular attendee at rallies.
P. Jimmy was associated with Gaelic games since he was young in Carlow. He said the best gift he has ever received was a gift from a footballer at the age of six. He played senior football for County Carlow in the 1960s and won three senior county football medals with his native Kildavin in 1966, 1970 and 1973. He often remarked that he was the only pastor in his diocese with such an achievement. Previously, he had captained Kildavin to win the Junior Hurling Championship in 1962.
P. Jimmy’s Gaelic career in Carlow is outlined by co-stars including Tom Kehoe, George Darcy, Christy O’Neill and Cyril Hughes with an overview by sports journalist Charlie Keegan.
P. Jimmy almost never became a priest. He was one son with four sisters. When he left high school, he was needed to work on the family farm. His father was reluctant to let Jimmy go on to the priesthood because he wanted him to inherit the farm. Eventually, after six years, his father gave up, and Jimmy began his pastoral studies.
During his six years as a full-time farmer, he was a leading member of the Carlow Macra na Feirme. He maintained a lifelong interest in agriculture and returned to the family farm on his day off every Monday to help on the farm run by his sister.
The book was prompted by the outpouring of grief on social media and the genuine regret over Fr. Doyle’s passing last year. The title of the book Sportsman and a Shepherd is taken from a Leonard Cohen song, Going Home.
The collection of stories will be of interest to anyone with an interest in sports and life as a pastor who loved so many people in a time of crisis for the church itself.
This book will be an ideal Christmas gift.
It is supported by Kildare and Carlow GAA and by Moorefield and Sarsfield’s clubs and can be ordered at a reduced price by contacting: Lorcan O’Rourke, 142 Moorefield Park, Droichead Nua, Co. Kildare by mail or by e-mail to lorcanorourke142 @ gmail. com. It will also be available in bookstores throughout the county. The profits go to designated charities.
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