ANY time we think of Colm Boyle’s career, we’re drawn back to a June day in 2004 and a very talented Mayo minor team in action against Galway in MacHale Park.
Boyle was the on-field captain that day, with regular captain Mark Ronaldson out injured, when a late, late goal by Brian Faherty saw Mayo sink to a heartbreaking two point defeat.
Add in the fact that there was a double hop in the run-up and the sense of loss was heightened. The final whistle sounded afterwards and our eyes were drawn to the Davitts teenager.
Boyle fell to his knees in the left corner near MacHale Road and started thumping the grass in frustration. We’ve rarely seen a player hurt in defeat on a pitch as much and hurt can be a strong motivator.
So can passion and determination, and no little ability. He would need all those qualities in the years ahead.
He won an All-Ireland Under-21 title in 2006 but was taken off at half-time in the final as he struggled on Cork’s Fintan Goold.
Two years later he would have a Connacht senior final to forget against Galway, taken off before half-time along with Shrule/Glencorrib’s Kieran Conroy as both struggled in a new look full-back line.
He would be dropped from the Mayo panel the following year.
Who then would have predicted that Colm Boyle would go onto become one of Mayo’s all-time greats?
But hurt and determination can be powerful drivers when channelled properly.
Boyle went to the gym and beefed himself up. When he wasn’t there, he was on the pitch in Ballindine doing runs. Together with club colleagues Ronan McNamara and Mickey Conroy, Boyle led Davitts to Mayo and Connacht intermediate championship titles in 2011 and Mayo manager James Horan came calling in 2012.
The brave, determined minor from 2004 was back where he wanted to be, but he was now equipped with the type of durable frame needed for the inter-county game.
Who can ever forget his incredible goal against Kerry in the National League semi-final in 2012? Or his rousing hit on Galway’s Damien Comer in the 2014 Connacht Final?
He became a huge fan’s favourite. Mayo fans like players who leave everything behind them on the field. This was never in doubt with ‘Boyler’.
Fully merited All Stars would follow in 2013, 14, 16 and 17, as he joined Lee Keegan and Keith Higgins as Mayo’s most decorated All Star, although Keegan will go out on his own in a couple of weeks.
There is a tendency when talking about Colm Boyle to talk up his heroic qualities and talk down his more cerebral ones. Yet he knew the time to get forward and kick a score. He was the man deemed best placed to play the mentally challenging role of sweeper under Stephen Rochford.
But a man who endured more setbacks than any player ought to normally face is bound to be known first and foremost for his battling qualities.
You could tell he wore the Mayo jersey with great pride and with dignity, and he evoked great pride among Mayo fans too.
We were lucky to see him play.