Peter Boyle in goal for Donegal against Mayo in the National League in 2016 (incidentally the only time Donegal have beaten Mayo since the All-Ireland win of 2012) Picture: OLIVER MCVEIGH/SPORTSFILE
It's almost 11 years since Peter Boyle played in an All-Ireland U-21 final while still only 17 years of age. Still only 28, he is one of the veterans of the Aodh Ruadh team which won the Donegal Intermediate Championship last year.
The goalkeeper has had an eventful career so far but after two stints at county senior level, he is very happy in his own skin as to his present position.
By goalkeeping standards, Peter Boyle is still in the middle of his career and yet he has done a lot more than most, including terms at club management at different age groups.
His career began under the tutelage of Conor Carney in primary school, followed by Gerry Breslin and Hugh McGlynn in Colaiste Cholmcille.
"Conor Carney would have had a big influence. We always would have school tournaments; there was always a sense of Gaelic football. It could have been something that was left from the De La Salle days.
"We were up in the Rock and that building was always there when I was in primary school," said Boyle, who added that Carney was good to all his students "whether they be good, bad or indifferent."
Born on July 9, 1992, he wouldn't have remembered much about Donegal's first All-Ireland win. He mentions Enda McGurrin, Sean Perry, Paddy Kelly, John Larkin, Terence McShea as being involved in coaching in his young days with Aodh Ruadh and then Shane Ward, Barry Gallagher, Barry Ward in the latter age groups.
"We wouldn't have won much. Apart from myself and Gary Carty there's nobody else from the 1992 age group still playing Gaelic football for Aodh Ruadh, which is amazing to think about it.
"When I was growing up Bundoran were unbelievably strong. They would have been winning; themselves and Milford and then Glenties would have been very strong, Seamus Corcoran and boys like that.
Peter Boyle pictured with his younger brother, Nathan, and the Intermediate Cup after Aodh Ruadh's success last year
"We would never have had success but at the same time we would never have been terrible. We were competitive."
Always a 'keeper at underage, he got a taste of playing outfield when numbers were limited at U-16 level.
"I played in goal until my last year at U-16. Then I played outfield for three years. In my last year at U-16 I would have played outfield but would have played in goals for the minors the same year.
"There was always a 'will I stay in goals or will I go out?' Numbers would have been getting smaller and there was always someone else who could have went in goal," said Boyle, who said he won an Ulster Colleges medal with Colaiste Cholmcille as a full-forward.
"To be honest that experiment ended when I was about 20," laughs Boyle.
"I remember playing down in Glencolmcille as wing-back and I got taken off at half-time and (Brian) Roper came on. I think Roper might have got a hat-trick that day. I think that was the last time, apart from a few years ago when we were getting relegated from Division One when we might have had only 14 or 15 players. I played against St Michael's out the field and I played against Kilcar, but that was because we were just stuck for numbers at the time."
There is no doubt that being involved with the Donegal U-21s in 2010 was the highlight of career at county level. They would go on to win Ulster and lose out narrowly in the All-Ireland final with Boyle between the posts.
"I'll never forget the first game I played for the County U-21s. I was actually out in Bundoran playing a minor game. I'm not sure who came out and said the U-21s are playing in Ballyshannon against Sligo in Munday's Field. Ashley (Mulhern) got injured and they were stuck for a 'keeper. So they asked would I play, and I said aye.
"I never really looked back. And that year with the U-21s was the greatest journey you could ever go on. The players, that was the start for the likes of Michael Murphy and Leo McLoone. They were so many talented players. And then with Jim (McGuinness) in charge, like the sky was the limit for that team and the crossbar away from an All-Ireland title.
"It's hard to believe it's over 10 years now. You were living in the moment, every training session was great. That was the first time I came upon Pat Shovlin, and that would have been my first proper goalkeeping coach. At that age you are like a sponge, you are taking everything in and you are trying to improve," said Boyle, who said he had a lot to learn but he was in awe of his teammates.
"There was me, 17 years-of-age going in along with boys there that are going into senior football. Oh my God, Michael Murphy, Young Player of the Year and he was a big, big man then and there's me, a wee skinny runt, going in behind him in the parade round the field."
The young 'keeper was then drafted into the senior squad when Jim McGuinness took over the Donegal seniors.
"Surprisingly enough, the first league game for Donegal under Jim was against Sligo and I actually started that game. Now that game didn't go great for me; going from minor to U-21 to senior in a year. It's completely different gravy; probably a bit too quick for me. Another year of coaching under Jim and Pat (would have helped). But that's the way it happened. I would have played a couple of McKenna Cup games before that," said Boyle.
"For myself, it was probably too early. Papa (Durcan) became the star that we all know him for now, an All-Star; when he was at his peak, the best 'keeper in Ireland. That's when he started to kick into gear. And unfortunately for me, I wasn't just ready mentally to kick on with them," said Boyle.
"I came back in under Rory (Gallagher). Mark Anthony (McGinley) got injured and Danny Rodgers was in. Danny might still have been still U-21. They were looking for a bit of cover so I went up and James Gallagher, the former Finn Harps goalkeeper, was the goalkeeping coach," said Boyle, who said that he got the nod to play against Down in Newry and went on another run.
But it didn't work out for Boyle and Donegal and he decided to concentrate on the club and he did so without any great fuss.
"It's funny. I always thought myself as an Aodh Ruadh player. I just happened to play for Donegal a couple of times. I never see myself as being a county player and I play for Aodh Ruadh in my spare time. I learned to play football on the streets of St Benildus or in Eddie McDermott's old field before the school was built.
"In terms of leaving the Donegal scene, for myself it just never happened for me. It is more than likely just down to myself, just not kicking on, giving it that extra 25 per cent that would have taken me on to the next level.
"But I have no regrets at all," said Boyle.
After that Boyle got involved more at club level, taking underage management roles and he was also appointed senior club captain.
"I went straight into management, taking on the club U-21s. I brought Caolan Ward down from Letterkenny and I would have also taken the minors and I helped out with the U-16s or any other team I could get involved.
"We would have played minor, 16s, Buncrana Cup. He is the same age. I lived in Letterkenny for a while as well. We just clicked. He was working up in Monaghan at the time and I just asked him if he would come and give me a hand, and he said yes.
"It was great for the lads to see him come down. It was great craic; we bounced off each other. Our journey came to an end in Killybegs against a very good Killybegs team."
Now that Aodh Ruadh are back up to senior championship, Boyle says he will not be involved in management in the coming year. He is still enjoying the aftermath of winning the Intermediate Championship in 2020.
"Last year was such an unique year with Covid and all that. In years gone by we would have breezed through the group stage. You could hammer a team by 20 odd points and you think you are flying. But at no stage last year did we have a comfortable game, not one. And quietly inside we could all feel, this could be it. We were grinding out results; we were finishing games strong. Boys were getting niggly injuries, but were still going towards the same goal.
"There was no oul nonsense. People said, you know what, if there is any years you will win it, it will be the year you can't go out and celebrate. They weren't wrong."
Boyle is one only a few Aodh Ruadh players who were about the last time the club played senior championship.
"I think there's only a handful. It's that long ago, football has changed so much. It is completely different. There's a beauty for us going in with not too many boys having played senior.
"It doesn't matter who we get drawn against," said Boyle, who is looking forward to the challenge.
When it is put to him that he is a veteran of the team at 28, he laughs: "Ah, don't be saying that. Which is funny, when I came into Aodh Ruadh, there were a lot of boys who played in '97 and '98 tipping about, simply because we weren't bringing players through.
"We were really, really struggling for numbers. It's great now that we are looking at 50 odd adult footballers for next year.
“That is unheard of and a lot of them are young people wanting to engage in Aodh Ruadh football. And that's something to look forward to over the next few years," said Boyle, who adds that the focus now will be on some of those young players as they do their apprenticeship for the senior team.
"Michael McKenna would have learned his apprenticeship the year before, Shane Gillespie, people like that. And with the numbers now we don't have to rush players in because of being stuck for numbers."
He says that it was a great help last year with everyone at home. "Donagh McIntyre came back and played a part; David McGurrin came back and played a part.
“At the start of the year before Covid, they probably had no plans to play, and then parts of the jigsaw fell into place. When everything aligns, what happens us last year, that's the way it worked."
And now there could be trips once more to the likes of Towney and Glenties.
"I don't think there is anything to look forward to going to Towney with everyone up on the bank beeping down on you," said Boyle, who added that they were there a few years ago when they went up to Division One, but he feels they weren't ready at that time.
"We probably didn't have the strength and depth in the panel and physically and mentally we weren't ready.
“But having got over the line in the Intermediate after ten years, you do feel, we have actually crossed that line now. Let's actually see where we are at. Let's go up against the best teams in the county and let's put up a good account for ourselves,” he said.
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