Losing your business in a recession, gaining weight after an injury and losing your appetite for life – none of these things are unfamiliar in the modern world but the story of how Aidan Doyle faced up to these issues and lost an incredible eight and a half stone in eight months is an inspirational one.

The fact that returning to play rugby was one of the goals that spurred him on just goes to prove how important our game and our clubs can be.

Aidan began playing rugby with Portarlington’s U14 team in 1978 and continued to play youths rugby until moving away. When he returned, aged 27, he played senior rugby with the club’s seconds before being promoted to play in the front row for the first team. He went on to captain the club between 2003 and 2005 during which time they were promoted to Division 1 with a 100% record. The team that year included his stepson Ross. Aidan also coached a highly competitive youth’s team who competed in the Leinster League Premier Division taking them from u14s to u18s with great success.

When he was 41 Aidan retired from playing after a knee operation and it was at that point that his spiralling weight problems began. “Without rugby in my life I just got lazy” he recalls. “My business was badly hit by the recession and eventually failed. I had no zest for life and without rugby I had no balance in my life and I started to pile on the weight. Before I knew it I weighed 26 stone and I just couldn’t see a way back. I went to watch Ross playing with the club all the time and I constantly felt the desire to play again but my size just meant that wasn’t possible”.

In the summer of 2014 Aidan’s son Calvin confronted him about his weight and his concerns about the health problems that he was setting himself up for. It was then that Aidan decided that he was going to take control and do something to get into shape again. On August 1st he started a programme with Pat Divilly and one of his goals was to one day play rugby again for his club.

Aidan’s programme included swimming, cycling, walking and gym work as well as improving his diet with the support of his wife Martina. He made an unwavering decision to lose weight as exercise and healthy eating became a part of his daily routine. He never allowed tiredness, bad weather or a busy schedule to become an excuse to take a day off and by Christmas he had lost six stone. “I started feeling more like myself again and it was then that goals like playing rugby started to feel more and more achievable”.

That particular goal became a reality when in April of this year Aidan had dropped 8.5 stone and reached his target weight of 17 stone 10lb. He made himself available for the club’s third team and he was selected to play in the Spiers Cup. He was on the winning team when they took on Newbridge in the semi-final and in the final he scored a try against Cill Dara who eventually won a close contest.

Having now played senior rugby for fifteen years with Portarlington Ross Doyle is the club’s all-time leading try scorer and was last season appointed as player / coach of the first team. Ross was club captain in 2012 when his team won Leinster League Division 2A, The Towns Plate and The Hosie Cup. He has also played five seasons with the Leinster Juniors team and captained the side last season. But he says that seeing his stepfather overcoming his weight problems has inspired him to keep enjoying his own rugby. “Aidan was always there encouraging me and I hope that I did the same for him. It’s great to see him playing again. He was really back to his old self after the Spiers Cup final. He even went on a pub crawl to make sure that the whole town heard about his try!!”

Pat Divilly who guided Aidan during his weight loss and fitness programme says that his story should inspire others to take control of their lives. “Aidan was an absolute pleasure to work with. He was committed to a lifestyle change and to turning his life around. All too often people have superficial goals like losing weight for a wedding and in those circumstances whilst sometimes people will lose the weight initially the weight loss isn’t sustainable. Aidan made a commitment to himself to wanting a lifestyle change that would allow him to live life to the fullest. I’m so happy to see him doing so well.”
Aidan will turn 50 next April and to celebrate the singer songwriter has been asked to captain the club’s third team. It will be his fifth decade of representing Portarlington and while that in itself is a wonderful achievement, coming on the back of his remarkable weight loss success it is surely a unique triumph.

Congratulations Curly! Everyone in Leinster Rugby wish you all the best with your latest rugby endeavour. We’ll be keeping an eye on those third team results!