For a few years it looked like Colm Boyle might be joining the long list of players who could have been, but never really quite made it. The 26-year-old Davitts defender was part of the All Ireland winning u21 team in 2006 and in 2008 made his championship debut against Sligo, but not long after he was gone off the inter-county scene, probably not to be seen again.
But a big year with his club Davitts in 2011-12 which saw them claim the county and Connacht intermediate championship in 2011 and was bookended by an appearance in Corke Park in the All Ireland intermediate club final in 2012, saw the Galway-based Garda propelled back into the inter-county mindset and he hasn’t looked back since. But he admits that at times he didn’t think he’d be back wearing the green and red, let alone be gunning for All Ireland glory as he was last September. “Yah definitely , to be honest I thought ‘Yah I was finished with Mayo. I’ve been lucky enough, I had a good year with the club and James gave me a call and ever since I’ve just been working hard and doing whatever needs to be done to get to a high level.”
It’s a totally different game, Boyle has found himself after coming back into the inter-county set up and becoming a key member of the Mayo defence, from the game he played a few years previously. “It’s changed, 100 per cent, the speed of the game, training, everything the extra work that had to go into it between gym and you’re extra running work was just a different level from what I experienced before. In the space of three years, from the time I was away it was like coming back to a different game really.” The change in the way the game is played has seen him change himself to adapt to make sure he’s ready for the modern football. “Myself, I definitely feel much, much stronger and fitter, it might have been a issue for me in the past when I first came into the panel, I’ve worked on that. I would have bulked up a bit since then.”
Even in the space of a year, the wing-back whose teak-tough and barrelling performances have seen him marked out as one of the stand-out performers for Mayo so far this season, he has seen Mayo’s preparation and training move up another notch this year. “Last year being my first year back in, I found it brilliant, but this year the intensity of training has definitely upped. We’re putting a lot of focus on skills work and I think every team at the minute is very fit, so I suppose it’s about having your skills on the day and executing them under pressure at an exceptionally high level - that’s what we’re trying to do at the minute and what we’re working on.”
Mayo have become a real-deal contender for the All Ireland championship under the guidance of James Horan over the past couple of seasons and their work-rate and intensity all over the field have been singled out as the kind of thing that was missing from Mayo teams in the past, who had plenty of flashes of brilliance, but missing the necessary roughness and intensity from front to back to get themselves over the finishing line. But there is no special formula they are following, just working hard at the fundamentals and their intensity.
No special tactics
“No special tactics of formula, we aim not to concede and James has mentioned scorable frees, we’re trying not to give them away in that area. Obviously on goals it’s been a thing in the past but it’s something we are trying to cut down on, but there is no special formula in what we’re doing. We’ve worked hard with Donnie (Buckley ) on tackling a lot of that is up the field, which it makes our job a the back a bit easier, if the lads up the field are doing the work. So it’s no special formula just hard work.” The influence of Donie Buckley on the teams style of play this year has been well noticed by observers both inside and outside the county and Boyle is full of praise for the Kerryman’s input so far. “Donie is a brilliant reader of the game, he takes everything in from the sideline and he’ll be straight on to you the next day, with what he saw that you did wrong or you did well, be it tackling or positioning, for me I’ve found him a brilliant influence.”
This weekend Mayo will host London in the exiles’ first appearance in the Connacht final since they entered the competition in the mid-70’s. Boyle isn’t discounting the opposition, but says that he and his team are looking to put in a full performance, something that they haven’t done yet this year in the championship. “It is different in the fact it’s London, we’re not playing Galway or Roscommon or whatever, but it’s still a game that we’re going to go out and compete in and we’re looking to go out there and do something we haven’t done so far this year and that’s to perform for 70 minutes. We probably played well against Galway for 35 minutes and probably a little less against Roscommon, so we’re really looking to push on now and up the performance and try and hit the ground running. People are saying that, it might have looked easy but we have been up against it at times in those games. But we’ve hit the ground running well in both those games and we’re looking to do the same against London.”
While Boyle and his clubmate Michael Conroy will be keeping the home fires burning with interest for Davitts, there’s another little caveat for the Ballindine-based club to peek the interest with one of their own involved in the London panel. “A clubmate and good friend of mine is on the London panel at the minute, Aidan McTigue, so we haven’t been talking football of such over the last few weeks. It’s something different but at the end of the day it’s a game and the same rules apply.”
It’s something different alright, but for Boyle it’s another chance to mark himself out as one of the premier wing backs in the game, come throw in on Sunday and the Davitts dynamo will be fixated on one thing only and that’s getting another Connacht championship medal in his back pocket, come the final whistle.