Belfast Telegraph

Co Down man to face world's top rowers just four years after taking up the sport

 

By Claire McNeilly

It will be one of the proudest moments in the life of Banbridge man Philip Doyle when he takes to the water at the World Rowing Championships.

The 25-year-old's only regret will be that his late father Eamonn won't be in Bulgaria this week to see it.

Queen's University medical graduate Philip was selected for the Senior Irish Rowing team in July and is hoping to land a medal in the double sculls alongside University College Cork student Ronan Byrne.

Podium finish or not, it's quite a remarkable feat for Philip to get this far, four years after taking up the sport.

That was just before his father, a BBC cameraman, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

He passed away on April 12, 2015, aged 56.

As his father would have wished, Philip kept rowing throughout this period of loss; indeed, it was one of the main things that helped him to "keep going" on a daily basis.

"My father was diagnosed when I was in second year," he said.

"When I was a novice I won the British University Championships eights and fours. They were my first gold medals from rowing and I couldn't wait to bring them home for him to see. He was delighted. It gave my dad joy to watch me row and do well.

"He was in the hospice at the time. He was in a very bad way and we thought it was going to be a couple of weeks but with chemotherapy he rallied for another year.

"It was devastating dealing with my dad's illness. It was a stressful time. He really wanted to see me graduate from university but he knew that wasn't realistic. I wanted to give him some success to focus on.

"If I'd just stopped everything he would've felt guilty about holding me back from life."

Philip, an only child, has a "very close relationship" with his mum Una (in her 60s), a retired civil servant.

"She believes it's time for medicine to come first because the rowing has come first for so many years, but she supports me in everything I do," he said.

"I rely on her immensely.

"I don't want to let her down."

There's a lot riding on the Plovdiv-hosted World Championships for Philip - not least a step closer to his ultimate dream, the Olympic Games.

"The outcome of this regatta will decide whether or not the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will be a possibility for me," he said.

"I've deferred my junior doctor foundation year for four months. There's a possibility of putting it on hold for a year but otherwise I'll be starting work in the renal ward in the City Hospital on December 1 and I'll continue to row in Belfast part-time while working and re-trial again next year."

Having secured a first-class honours degree in medical sciences in 2016, Philip recently graduated in medicine from Queen's.

He said he's "very interested in emergency medicine and paediatrics", but his main aim is "to be a good doctor".

Despite his relatively late start in rowing, he's no stranger to competitive sport; the former Banbridge Academy pupil played hockey for both Ulster and Ireland at junior European level.

"I gave up hockey when I went to university but after a year my mother told me I needed to get some sport back into my life," he said.

During his student days, he supported himself financially with modelling contracts - including commercial shoots for Abercrombie & Fitch.

"I was on a family trip to the Dublin Horse Show when a recruiter picked me out of the crowd," he recalled.

"I do a lot of fashion work - the Ulster University fashion show and the Belfast Fashion Week.

"I'm actually doing the latter next month."

Any funny modelling tales to tell us?

"Well, I was 'the face of Golden Cow' for a while - posing as a 25-year-old dad although my 'son' and 'daughter' were actually eight and nine-years-old respectively," he said.

And sorry, ladies, but cheering Philip on all the way towards the upper echelons of world rowing will be his beautiful girlfriend, medical student Rachael Goan (23), who's just finishing her masters in clinical anatomy.

"We starting dating a month after I lost my dad so we've been together for over three years," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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