Weeshie's Week

Eddie Dowling Eulogy

June 21st, 2012
by Maurice O'Mahoney

A chairde,

Inniu, taimid bailithe anseo i Reilig na Gaille chun slan a fhagail le laoch mor peile, Eddie Dowling.  Togha fir, gan dabht faoin speir. Today, we gather here to bid farewell to a sporting great, who, because of his football ability, brought joy to countless Kerry supporters at home and abroad.

Eddie Dowling was born to Sonny Dowling and Ciss Lyons in December 1923, second eldest of a family of four boys and two girls. He grew up on the family farm in Gunsboro and, in time, he inherited the farm. He attended Coolard National School, where he was taught by David Dillon and, later, his son, Vincent Dillon. A North Kerry schools' league, similar to Cumann na mBunscol now, started and Coolard took part. Coolard won this league in 1938, Eddie's last year in school, defeating Ballylongford in the Final. The team captain was his brother Denis, affectionately known as "The Black". Two years later, at the age of sixteen, Eddie was part of the Ballydonoghue Team that defeated Dromlought, after a two replays, to win the North Kerry Junior League. In 1941 he wore the green and gold for the first time with the Kerry Minors. Apparently, on the Wednesday before the match Johnny Walsh called to him while he was working in the bog and told him that he was selected to play against Cork in Mallow in the Munster Semi-Final. On the Sunday morning a car came to take him to the match. In the dressing room Micheal O Ruairc called out the team. E. Daley was named in the half-forward line. Eddie, obviously, thought it was somebody else and didn't respond. A few minutes later he was asked if he was Johnny Walsh's man. He said he was and was promptly told: "In you go". Eddie scored two goals in the first half. Despite that, Cork led at half time by three points. He was moved to midfield in the second half. Kerry won by four points and went on to play Waterford in the Final. The All-Ireland Semi-Final, against Roscommon, was played in Tralee. The game ended in a draw. Roscommon won the replay and went on to win the All-Ireland title.

In the mid-forties the golden era of Ballydonoghue football was starting. Between 1945 and 1952 Ballydonoghue won the North Kerry League – the equivalent of the North Kerry Championship today – 5 times and Eddie was one of the main men involved in all those glorious victories. They came in 1945, 1946, 1949, 1950 and 1952.  His brothers, Ticey and The Black also starred on all those teams and did his younger brother, Danny in the finals of 1949, 1950 and 1952. Eddie also played with Newtown (Moyvane) in the North Kerry League, as the rules then permitted. Eddie captained Ballydonoghue for ten years, including those finals, until he retired in 1955. Club secretary at the time, Jack Kissane, Glouria, was one of his biggest admirers.

In 1945 Shannon Rangers won a fondly remembered Co. Senior Football Championship, fondly remembered for the standard and intensity of many of the games played. He partnered Gus Cremin at midfield in that campaign. In the semi-final Rangers defeated Fitzgeralds, Killarney at the third attempt and it took a replay to defeat Legion in the Final. Apparently, the support for Rangers in that campaign hasn't been seen since.

Eddie played his first senior game with Kerry in 1944. In 1946 he was captain of the Kerry Team. In the Munster Semi-Final in Killarney Kerry defeated Cork, reigning All-Ireland champions. Waterford was defeated in the Munster Final. Kerry played Antrim in the All-Ireland Semi-Final. Two Ballydonoghue men – Eddie and Gus Cremin – formed the midfield partnership – hard to believe but true. It took Kerry a while to get to grips with Antrim's style of play, but get to grips with it they did and qualified for the All-Ireland Final. Roscommon, winners in 1943 and 1944, joined Kerry. Eddie was a sub in the Final and Gus Cremin was captain. The game ended in a draw. A broken leg ruled Eddie out for the replay. On top of that the captaincy was given to Paddy Kennedy. Gus brought an All-Ireland medal to Ballydonoghue. Eddie got no medal. Different rules for different times. In 1947 Kerry defeated Cork in the Munster Final. Eddie was a sub that day, much to the annoyance, apparently, of Johnny Walsh, who as a team selector. Eddie replaced the injured Paddy Kennedy in the semi-final against Meath, coming on the mark Paddy O'Brien, a highly-regarded midfielder of that era. Kerry won to qualify for the All-Ireland Final. The Final, against Cavan, was played in the Polo Grounds, New York City on 14th September. Books have been written about that day – the most historic of all the Finals played since the founding of the GAA. And Eddie played a huge part in it. He was playing superbly until he suffered an injury which removed him from the game. Johnny Walsh admitted it was one of the greatest exhibitions of catch and kick that he had ever seen. Kerry was leading by 10 points at that stage. Things were to change utterly subsequently. The referee, Martin O'Neill of Wexford, was blamed as was the heat, as was the fact that Dr. Eamon O'Sullivan wasn't present. The loss of Eddie Dowling was, in the view of many, the main reason why Kerry lost. The bright side was that the players who played in that Final are better known than many players who may have won three or four All-Ireland medals. Today, almost 65 years later, only two players remain – Frank O'Keeffe and Mick Finucane. Eddie continued to play for Kerry, winning an All-Ireland junior medal in 1954. In that same year he was a sub on the senior team that lost to Meath in the All-Ireland Senior Final – Eddie's final involvement with Kerry.

Eddie played for Munster in the Railway Cup, at a time when that competition could attract a full house to Croke Park, at a time when all the best players in each province wanted to be involved. He played on the 1949 Munster Railway Cup winning team, defeating Connacht in the semi-final and Leinster in the final, after a replay. Fellow clubman, Mick Finucane also played on that team.

Eddie was President of Shannon Rangers and President of the North Kerry Football Board up to his death. Eddie wasn't tall as most midfielders are today. But he had other qualities. First of all he was a natural footballer. He was naturally fit being a farmer. He had tremendous natural strength. He had a great leap for a ball. He had great determination and drive.

Eddie Dowling is no longer with us, but his name and his reputation as a great footballer will live on. He was a man who took everything in his stride. When he lost his wife, Noreen, a number of years ago he didn't throw in the towel. He thrived in adversity, always looking on the bright side. He will be greatly missed by his ten children, daughters, Eileen, Bernie, Mary, Teresa, Ann and Nuala and his sons, Eamon, Dan, Dino and Jackie; by his grandchildren and extended family. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam.

Galey Cemetery
20 June 2012

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